Do you ever look back on your schooling and think, “Now why in the world did they not offer a class on that?!”
Where was the elective on Time Management? I know I could have used a few lessons about Healing from Heartbreak. And most of all, there should have been a class about effective communication. Because Lord knows we use that skill EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Seriously, when are we NOT communicating? Sometimes through our actions, mostly through our words…communication drives nearly everything we do. It would be pretty difficult to achieve goals, realize dreams and pursue lasting relationships without the use of effective communication.
Come to think of it, lousy communication is usually the root cause of many of our most dreaded problems! Broken relationships, misunderstandings on work projects, terrible family issues – poor communication is at the core.
So here’s what I propose – why not brush up on our communication skills? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Because pristine communication skills not only benefit your personal and professional relationships, but they help you achieve your wildest of dreams while using less time and effort. And a whole lot less drama.
Use these 8 communication tools to become a shape-shifting communicator with clients, coworkers, loved ones and friends.
1. Know How You Like to Communicate
In order to get the communication train rolling, you might have to do a little soul-searching.
How do you like to communicate with other people? What works best and feels most natural to you?
For me, I’m a talker. If you read Soultiply regularly, you can tell that I love to talk and joke and share lots of detail. I’m very specific in my words and tone because I want every form of communication to be a reflection of my genuine personality. I am straight-forward and direct, but prefer to steer-clear of conflict unless necessary. I hold myself and others to a certain standard of respect and civility in regards to communication, and if I don’t receive it in return, I won’t hesitate in letting you know. But if we are being completely honest, I’m emotional and I know that my emotions can cloud my ability to communicate effectively if left unchecked .
How about you?
If you are unsure about how you naturally prefer to communicate with others – think about some key factors… What is your natural tone? Do you turn towards the jokes, or do you have a more serious demeanor? How direct are you with other people? Do you skirt around the situation for fear of conflict or do you call ‘em how you see ‘em? In an ideal world, how do you wish other people would correspond with you? Do you prefer others not to talk to you at all? (Nothing wrong with that – many people DESPISE communication, which makes it an even more important skill to learn…)
There are no right or wrong answers…it’s all in an effort to learn how you respond best when communicating with others. Because if you know how you like to communicate and how you like others to communicate with you – you can approach each social situation with a new level of strength and right action.
2. Learn What They Need From You
Now that you know how you like to communicate, it’s time to do the real detective work: find out how others like to communicate with you.
If you can (and it doesn’t feel awkward) just straight out ask them! Especially in relationships with your significant other, one of your most important conversations may be discussing how you like to best communicate with each other ( So meta, I know…)
If you love to talk about your problems and emotions and your boyfriend likes to bottle everything up until it explodes one day while he’s in Vegas with his buddies…well, you need to know that. This way you can seek a middle ground that will work for both of your communication styles…before it’s too late!
For example, when you work closely with coworkers, it’s important to understand their communication styles as well. I’ve had bosses in the past who loved to know and discuss every detail, every document, and every project. We would talk and work together all day long. Then, I would have bosses who would prefer that I would handle things on my own and not email or discuss unless there was an issue or something that absolutely needed to be addressed. Both VERY kind people – just with different styles and needs in terms of communication. Once I understood their preferences, I was able to look for ways adapt my own style around them. I didn’t change who I was, but I looked for noninvasive choices that could strengthen our work relationship. If your boss prefers shorter emails, no biggie – just cut down the length, while still keeping in enough information that you deem pertinent to the situation.
The goal is to be bi-lingual; learn how to speak the “communication style language” of the person you are interacting with, but also remain true of your own communication style needs too.
Communication is a two way street, people!
This means that you might have to stick-up for yourself.
If you find yourself feeling downtrodden or suffocated because of the way that someone is communicating with you, (maybe they are yelling, cutting you off mid-sentence, making false accusations, not letting you speak) then take a step back and GET META; let them know that the form of communication they are using with you is getting in the way of a productive and meaningful conversation. If you can discuss the same topic but in a manner that fits both of your communication-styles, then real solutions can be achieved.
3. Throw Away Assumptions
“When you assume, it makes an ass out of U and ME!” That saying still gets me tickled – mostly because it’s SO TRUE! Assumptions are just the pits.
When it comes to communicating, assuming that others can read your mind is NOT the way to go. If you want something, it is YOUR JOB to communicate that to the other person. If you want to be cute and coy by hinting – understand that there is a very good chance you won’t get what you want. You can not assume that your significant other, your best friend or your parents can read your mind. So never leave anything important up for interpretation. Because honestly, you have NO idea what the other person is thinking, their current emotional state, or any of the MANY factors that could impact their assumptions. Say what you mean and you decrease the chance for miscommunication.
And as a listener, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Assumptions come in the form of jumping to conclusions too. I would much rather have the other person get mad at me for asking too many questions than to assume incorrectly and have to deal with more serious issues down the road.
4. While you are at it, ditch projections too!
Projecting is when you assume (there’s that dirty word again!) the outcome of a future conversation.
Maybe you anticipate that your best friend will get really mad with you, so you shy away from having a difficult conversation. Or maybe you think that the cute girl in your homeroom class won’t go on a date with you, so you never even bother asking.
Sometimes the hardest part of communicating is our ability to get in our own way . We shy away from communicating because we assume the worst in how others will react.
But remember that these projections are just our OWN fears being used against us! Just like an actual projector – it’s all light beams and shapes; the actual image (or fear) does not truly exist. It’s so exhausting to spend our time worrying about scenarios that often don’t even end up happening. Release that fear. You are above it – you are fearless! Fear and misunderstanding are BFFs and you are way too cool for that clique. Ditch it now!
You will never know until you try, right? If you approach communication with a mature and level head, the outcome of the conversation might surprise you in a positive way.
5. Keep tabs on your Emotions
This can be easier said than done!
Emotions are great communicating tools, but if they get out of hand, they can distract or undo the communication you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s just like cooking a recipe; too much of any one ingredient will leave your food tasting too sour or too sweet!
If you can’t keep tabs on the emotion and you know it’s going to get in your way – find ways around it.
Perhaps you can search for ways to communicate at another time when you have your composure and a clear head. Time and space give emotion a place to breathe.
Or don’t be afraid to own up to it – you can explain to the other person that your emotional response is making it difficult to communicate at this time.
There have been instances where I’ve had a conversation with someone about a topic I’m passionate about and my emotional reaction is something I’ve owned up to and embraced. And I’ve found that most people are receptive because now they understand where I am coming from – they didn’t have to figure out how I felt or why I was upset. If anything, it showed them that I truly care about our interaction and relationship.
6. Slow Down & Switch Out – The “Pokémon Effect”
When I’m talking to someone and I’m super nervous – my mouth runs a mile a minute! I talk so fast sometimes you can hardly hear what I’m saying.
Anyone else can relate?
In these instances of communication – it’s best to sloooooowwww doooooownnn. Take a moment to collect your words and regain your composure. By slowing down, you are less likely to say something that isn’t true or you might regret.
If you can slow down enough, you might have the chance to make a conscious decision to communicate in another way.
I like to call this the “Pokémon Effect”.
As any true Pokémon fan can remember, when Ash realized he was unlikely to defeat an opponent, he would switch out his Pokémon and send in another that was better suited for the situation at hand. You can do that with your communication styles too!
Find yourself having to talk with a jerk coworker and getting no where fast? Change out your communication style.
Think of it this way… You know how you can often tell who someone’s talking to on the phone based on the intonation of their voice? You talk to your boss differently than you would talk to your little sister or your dog or that hot guy who lives down the hall, right? So if your automatic communication style is not working – try the “Pokémon Effect”; change out the way you are talking to that person and act as if you were talking to someone else instead.
Patience and understanding, I choose you!
You will find more patience and understanding if you try talking to your coworker like you would normally talk to your BFF. When deciding what would be the best plan of action, think of who in your life that you could “talk to” that would make this a successful conversation, and then pretend you are speaking to them instead. This extra boost of compassion can fizzle even the most heated of discussions.
7. Utilize Other Forms of Communication
If you’ve tried all the other tips above – it might be time to utilize another form of communication.
Verbal communication isn’t the only route. You can use written communication (such as writing a letter, texting, or email) or nonverbal (by using your body language as a tool to enhance your verbal communication). It’s time to find your strengths and use them.
Written communication is oftentimes frowned upon in some situations, (don’t go breaking up with your boyfriend via text message!) but it might allow you to take the time to gather your thoughts, formulate your words and create a cohesive and thought-out dialogue.
You can then take those same sentiments and apply them to your verbal communication efforts.
I’ve written in my personal journal for over 11 years now, and I find after writing out my thoughts, I feel much clearer and confident in expressing them out loud.
The end result is all that matters; use whichever communication tool that will get you there.
8. Know When to Throw In the Towel
Sometimes communication problems are the hardest to solve, but it’s up to you to realize when it’s truly not working out.
Perhaps seeing a therapist and allowing someone to mediate and dissect the discussion can help break the barrier.
If you’ve tried my steps above, attended therapy, and you STILL cannot communicate with the other person in a healthy manner - it might not be a relationship worth undertaking at this time.
It’s important that you know your voice is heard in any relationship . If you know this is not the case and there is nothing else you can do to change it, start spending your time with other people who will honor the communicator in you.
Every opportunity to communicate is a work in progress.
And we all have our slip-ups, believe me. We all have these ideas and thoughts and emotions swimming around in our brain and it can be overwhelming and sometimes difficult to express them in the right way.
But never give up. Because when you ARE able to develop a clear line of communication – you are unstoppable. Things will HAPPEN, dreams will be achieved, relationships will blossom. The world will be yours. And people will be in your corner, understanding your vision and helping you get there. Now doesn’t that sound nice?
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