There is no doubt that communication is a foundational pillar of healthy relating, and the truth is, we are communicating all the time not only by what we say but by what we don’t say. For example, we communicate through our posture, facial expressions, and gestures. The trick here and what makes all the difference is to communicate effectively. Effective communication is not automatic for most of us, and instead we find ourselves “shooting from the hip” all too often. Learning improved communication skills and tools that work for you can save yourself and those you love pain, confusion, and suffering. Check out the communication practices outlined in this blog to see if they may work for you!
Verbal Communication Skills to Practice
Use “I” Statements – This helps bring connection and reduce defensiveness. For example, if someone is late, instead of blaming them or saying, “You are always late, you make me so angry.” Instead, you could instead say, “I notice when you are running late, and I get frustrated. Can we do anything about this? Could I text you a reminder, or could we set an alarm on your phone?”
Make Do-Able Requests from a “WE” Stance – making concrete requests really helps people know what to do and how to make things right. It goes a long way toward solutions, much more than emotional venting (that causes others to feel guilty) or shutting down and withdrawing (which causes others to feel alone). In the example above, specific things are asked for that offer direction. Also, using “WE” language as shown above fosters a sense of teamwork and positive attitude that lends itself to positive outcomes. This is compared to requests that only ask the other do something or make the other feel wrong. Instead, let the other person know how you feel and offer to work together toward a resolution.
Notice Your Tone of Voice – Tone is a very big factor in communication. When we say things with positive energy, kindness, or respect, our communication is much more likely to be heard and responded to positively. When we speak tersely, curtly, and with anger or sarcasm, people feel it, and they are not likely to respond well, no matter how “right” we may be. Sometimes, it only takes a couple deep breathes to change our tone and go again.
Non-Verbal Communication Skills to Practice
Get Centered – Before communicating, taking a few minutes to breathe and center yourself within goes a long way to bring positive emotional energy to the conversation. We want to communicate from a calm and grounded place. Doing so brings spaciousness and presence to our discussions. This is why it is often discouraged to communicate in the “heat of the moment.” Whatever we may need to say is not likely to come out well, but instead, it will be said with reactivity or emotional charge.
Opening Your Posture – When you desire to communicate about important things, notice if your heart and body feel open and willing. This would translate into your shoulders, chest, and face being relaxed and open as well as making positive eye contact. When we’re upset or closed to a conversation, our arms are crossed, our shoulders, jaw, or neck are tense, and we may be looking away.
Timing Goes A Long Way – While we can often feel pressure to speak immediately on important issues, or conversely avoid communication altogether, discerning the best time to speak is a huge help. For example, when we are tired, hungry, angry, or stressed, these are definitely inopportune times to speak and attempts to do so usually go poorly. However, when we create deliberate space to communicate, whether setting a time or making sure we are in a good place to do so, sets us up for desired outcomes.
NOTE: It is important to know that communicating effectively takes time and practice – for ourselves and for those we are communicating with. Skills are not learned over night but with repetition and commitment. Those receiving our new style of communication may need time to receive and respond to them, as it is new and unexpected behavior, but stick with it!
A Helpful Resource for More Information
Non-Violent Communication, a communication theory and practice developed by Marshall Rosenberg, has received a lot of attention for its effectiveness in creating accessibility and engagement. Learn more here.
We’re Here When You’re ready
Relationships of all kinds can be challenging and they take effort to sustain, but if you’re ready to create a more fulfilling bonds with the people in your life, we can help. If you are ready to move forward in your relationships, let’s talk. Reach out to the Family Connections Therapy team today to schedule a counseling session to learn more about positive communication skills. We can help you explore new ways of being together, communicating clearly, and developing lasting bonds.