One of the top five reasons why people come for therapy is to learn how to express themselves and communicate better.
Nowadays, a smoke signal is probably a more direct communication than a face-to-face chat on the couch or from a black-and-white text message to another. We have conditioned ourselves to speak to impress and speak up for empowerment. Yet, we cannot have a conversation with our family members or colleagues without worrying about what possible hurt or disappointment we would inflict on others and ourselves.
At its core, good communication happens when we can transmit information from one person to another so that the sender and receiver understand the message similarly. However, the truth is – no two people interpret the information the same way because we are not clones of one another!
The following are some tips to communicate better:
Slow Down and Breathe
It sounds unoriginal, but sometimes, we suffer from this syndrome - "speaking without thinking," especially when we are flustered, anxious, upset, or feel out of control. We end up saying things we do not mean as we lose ourselves to our overwrought emotions.
When we speak slower, we allow ourselves to choose to regain our composure before communicating intentionally. Deliberately slowing our pace if we talk (I don't mean speaking so slow that it bores you out!) allows us to hear ourselves when we speak to be mindful of what we are relaying to others. Slowing down also regulates our breathing as our breathing could become short and brief whenever we are overwhelmed with anxiety.
Communicate Mindfully – “What is my intention?”
Why do you need to speak? Was it to fill the awkward silence? To show concern and care? Or was it to show who the boss is?
When we communicate mindlessly without intentions, we tend to be unaware of what we are communicating and whether the receiver is ready or open to receiving what we are about to relay. An excellent way to have a meaningful conversation is to be aware of what we are relaying to the other person. Else we might end up creating unnecessary miscommunication or strain on relationships.
Adopt an Open Mind
An innocent conversation can take an unexpected turn. For example, when a manager relayed feedback about project management to an employee, the following might play out.
Manager: "The project could have been executed in a more cost-effective manner."
What the employee might have perceived:
“I have let my manager down.”
“I am not good enough.”
“I am just too stupid.”
“I have failed the project.”
Another example of our biased sense of self affects the way we communicate with our family members:
Child: “I am sick of being nagged to the point where I don’t give a damn anymore.”
What the parent might have perceived:
“Great. I have raised a brat.”
“I suck at parenting.”
“I have failed as a parent.”
“My child hates me.”
When we hear or perceive what is communicated to us based on our dysfunctional sense of self (the way we see ourselves or believe ourselves to be), it warps the original message of the speaker.
An open mind would require us not to assume what the speaker meant and not to jump the gun, turn it, and shoot ourselves before we are shot. A biased mind clouds us from what we could have learned from our experiences and holds us back from growth.
Without a doubt, mobile phones help connect people at a distance, all around the world, and when I mean at a distance, it does not mean couch-length or across the living room.
The receiver is not present if the other concentrates on their phone on the couch while the speaker tries to strike up a conversation. One might argue that one can multitask, but it is tough for the speaker to feel listened to or cared for when what is being presented on the mobile phone is seemingly more important than the speaker.
I once had a client telling me that she rejected a marriage proposal from her ex-boyfriend because he was completing a mission in one of his video games while proposing!