Communication is hard!
It would be nice if communication was easy. Sadly, it’s not. We each have our own speaking and listening styles.
For successful communication to happen we have to:
- Speak in a way that the other party receives
- Listen in a way that we receive the other party’s message
- Transition from speaker to listener and back again
The speaker is the one trying to get their point across. So, the heaviest burden is on the speaker. As a result, you need to understand your audience. If you know your audience likes short to the point communication, shorten your message, so they can track you. After you’ve gotten the basic point across, you can use more words to follow up in the areas that need more attention.
Next, think about non-verbal communication. Does your body language contradict your words. Also, pay attention to your audience’s body language. Is there eye contact?
If you’ve identified a communication problem and you don’t know what to do, a therapist can help.
What can I try on my own?
If you’re not ready to try counseling, here are some tips…
Here’s the speaker’s checklist:
- Is what I’m saying true and complete?
- Is this the right time to communicate this information?
- Am I delivering the information in a way that the recipient will understand?
- Am I delivering the information in a way that the recipient will receive it well?
- Are my words kind?
Finally, you have one more duty, which is gauging your audience’s response during your delivery
- Try to pick up on any clues that tell you whether your information is being received as you intended. Stop and reset if you need to.
Here’s the listener’s checklist:
- Am I listening to understand instead just waiting for my turn to respond?
- Am I getting defensive based on what I hear?
- What follow-up questions can I ask to make sure I am receiving the right message? Make sure to minimize the assumptions you are making
Communication and Relationships
You might think that it should be easier to communicate to someone you are in a relationship with. However, relationships can present some unique challenges:
- We are tempted to speak in shorthand with people we know well. This the exact opposite of clear communication
- It’s easy to fall into the relationship trap of needing to be “right”. This has the effect of shutting down open discussion
- For hetero couples, there really ARE differences between the way men and women communicate
Don't take it personally
Finally, the most important part of communicating is not taking anything personally! People say all sorts of things they don’t really mean and people sometimes state opinions as facts.
Therapists are professional communicators. Hence, they are extremely qualified to help you with communication. Your therapist will support you in your goal to become a better communicator. Often there is no one in our life to tell us how they perceive what we are saying. Without that input how can we correct our delivery so that our message gets through. Therapists do this for a living. If you find that you are taking things that other people say personally, a therapist can help you with that. Online counseling can be a great tool for helping with communication. The visual medium of online counseling naturally reinforces eye contact and focus.