Communication can change everything. Poor communication can leave things open to interpretation, and to others making assumptions – right or wrong – about our intentions. Good communication can open doors, and forge stronger relationships, connections and more understanding between people.
Too often, it’s the former kind is the one that gets us into trouble, in our intimate relationships, between friends and at work. Learning how to more effectively
communicate can turn around some of your problematic or stuck relationships, and it will deepen the ones you want. Communication is an art form that takes a lifetime to really master, but like anything else, with practice you can learn to develop your skills.
We’re going to look at 12 communication skills to consider when developing better communication skills, across all aspects of your life. Try using one or two of these when you communicate next with someone, whether you are talking with your boss, your kid, your parent or your significant other.
- Make and maintain eye contact (without looking like a stalker): the eyes speak loudest, and people really feel like you’re tuned in to them when you make eye contact with them. They feel like you care about what they’re saying.
- Reflectively listen: try to paraphrase back what the other person is saying to you. Counselors do this, but you don’t necessarily have to be a counselor to do it. Just be yourself. Feed back to the other person, in a nutshell, what you’re hearing them say, and get their confirmation. This step can improve better communication immensely.
- Try to shut out other distractions, like cell phone, text, other people, kids: Communication, if not just simple connection, has become a lost art in a dizzying world of technology and things competing for our attention. Try to focus your attention on the person and what they’re saying, and if you need to grab coffee with them, make a date. You’ll get their attention a lot more than if you’re attending to your phone or Facebook while professing to listen to them.
- Don’t try to “problem solve” the other person, unless they ask for it or invite you to do so. Just listen. With women and intimacy, the first trap that men fall into is this one. Women don’t want a solution, or else they’d ask. Try suspending your need to fix it or solve it (it’s more about your need to fix it than their’s), and “own” your helplessness or powerlessness if that’s what comes up for you. Again, Just listen.
- Watch inconvenient times to communicate: before work, right after work, when kids need attention, when deadlines are happening; try to ensure there’s no time pressure that will upset the communication that’s needed.
- Don’t accuse, criticize, berate, or put down the other person. There are other ways to get your point across instead of these ways. None of those ways of communicating will get you anywhere, and they surely won’t motivate someone to listen to you or do what you want them to do.
- Speak directly from what you need, or from what you’re not getting, from the person/situation/conflict. Make it about your unmet needs or feelings, rather that putting it on the other person.
- Try to not just hear the person’s words, but their sentiment, or “feel”, behind the words. Usually, if you can accurately get the read on the person’s feeling(s) behind their words, you can make better and direct contact, and get through to them on a whole different level.
- Watch conflict avoidance: not dealing with the problem, if it gets to that point, can only make things worse, and require more communication and problem solving on the back end. Avoidance never got a good man anywhere, except further into the hole.
- Be mindful of getting defensive: there’s nothing like working your way deeper into an issue that getting defensive, because it gets the other person defensive in a “mirroring” fashion.
- Stay open and agreeable to compromise: don’t try to just fight for your “side” or “cause”. See how you can try to meet the other person’s needs, if not to make it easier for you to get what you want from the other person.
- Don’t worry about what the other person may be thinking about you, and don’t succumb to the fear of not saying what you need to say. Regret, and “what I should have said” mentality only breeds discontent and other negative emotions if you stuff them inside and don’t express them at the time.
Developing effective communication skills takes time and effort, so be patient. Pick one or two of these tools, use them, and get some feedback from someone whom you’d like to improve communication with.