We all know how important communication is to the relationships we have with other people in our lives. Whether it is a significant other, a friend, family member or someone in your workplace, how we communicate can essentially make or break these relationships.
I’ve mentioned before that Brandon and I have struggled with communication. We’ve acknowledged this and it is now something we actively and consciously work on within our relationship. However, I’ve also noticed in other relationships (friends/work), my communication skills could use some additional fine tuning.
I recently read that the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communication. This is something I fully believe to be true. Because of that, I’ve made learning to communicate more effectively a priority. I am doing so by working on implementing these 5 practices.
5 Ways to Communicate More Effectively
When we talk about communication, our minds tend to automatically think of talking. However, listening is one of the most important parts to communicate more effectively. And actively listening, even more so.
The next time you are having a conversation with someone, really try to focus on what they have to say. Basically, don’t just appear to be listening attentively, make sure you really are paying attention to what they are saying. The key to communication is understanding. So ask questions to stay engaged and to fully understand what the other person is saying.
Learn to use ‘I’ Statements
This is something I recently learned about that can really make a world of difference in effective communication. ‘I’ statements are basically a way to present your feelings to the other person in a non-threatening way. Here is how to present an ‘I’ statement:
- Start with ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘they’
- Follow that up with how you feel
- Explain why you have those feelings, i.e. what provoked you to feel that way
- Say what it is about the behavior that you don’t like
- Specify an alternative to the behavior that you didn’t like
‘I’ statements take the blame off the other person and helps us in taking responsibility for what we are feeling and why. It requires a sense of vulnerability which will help in diffusing situations/arguments.
Talking about difficult topics can be hard. I know this all too well as I am really good about avoiding conflict.Even if that means avoiding communication altogether. Whether its my husband or friends, it is something that I am really making an effort to work on. It is not a good trait and makes effective communication near impossible.
However talking about the difficult things in life is what builds trust within a relationship. Your feelings need to appear in conversation. Try to be authentic and honest about how you feel as much as possible. Don’t assume that the other person knows what you are feeling or thinking.
These difficult, but authentic conversations are what strong relationships, they type where you can talk through anything, are made of.
There are few things worse than being in a one sided conversation. It’s honestly a huge pet peeve of mine. Communication cannot be effective if only one person gets the chance to voice their thoughts/opinions/feelings.
Ask questions when communicating. Even a simple “how was your day” can go a long way. It at least starts the conversation. Asking questions is a way of showing the other person you care and that you are interested in them and what they have to say.
This also wraps back around to active listening. Be sure that when you ask the questions that you are prepared to actively listen to what the other person has to say. Going through the motions of asking “how was your day”, but not actually listening, will not help you communicate more effectively within your relationships.
Have a Relationship Check-In
This one is more specifically for relationships with your significant other,but i just recently came across it and absolutely loved the idea.
In an article from MindBodyGreen, the author suggests, if you are working on effective communication, to schedule 10 minutes each day to just talk with your significant other. Pick a time, preferably at the end of the day, when you and your partner can simply talk. For 10 minutes, free from any and all distractions. Schedule it in and make it a priority.
During these 10 minutes do not discuss any points of conflict, do not bring up the trouble within the relationship. Rather just take the time to check-in with each other and to connect. Scheduling this 10 minute talk each night is a way to nurture your relationship by intentionally talking to each other rather then just going through the motions of daily small talk.
Communicating is something we do on a daily basis. But in order to communicate more effectively we need to be more intentional with what we say, how we say it and how we listen. Doing so will help to strengthen and build trust within our relationships.