A helpful and simple truth about human beings is that we want and deserve to be understood and respected as individuals. We all desire our feelings, needs, thoughts and behaviors to be validated and appreciated. When communicating with someone always try to remember this basic truth about yourself and others and you will be ahead of the game! It sounds easy but it takes practice.
It may feel like you have to prove to someone that you are right or need to convince someone that they are wrong way. Sometimes it seems that the needs of others always take precedence over your own. The practice of self-respect, compassion and understanding will help your relationships as well as your ability to effectively communicate.
Open and respectful communication can be difficult, but it is important. Our ability to communicate affects not only the success of our relationships, careers and self-esteem but also the mental health and success of our children. The most common misconception about communication is that it is simply a verbal act. In reality, we communicate with our voices, our bodies, our actions and with our ears.
If you care about someone let them know! Pay attention to them. In order to have good communication, as well as speaking, you must truly listen to what other people have to say.
This means allowing what they have to say to impact, change or influence how you feel, think and respond to them. Otherwise you are having a one-way conversation and that is not communicating. This does not mean you have to agree with everything someone says.
Psychology Tip: Listen Actively
- Do not assume you know what a person is going to say or what they need- ask how someone feels and what they need.
- Let what someone has to say affect you.
- Try not to classify a person as one thing or pre-judge them.
- Take the time to really listen and understand what someone is saying. Don’t sit there thinking of what you will say next while you are talking to someone. This is simply going through the motions of listening.
- Validate: Repeat back to a person what you heard them say and ask them of that is what they meant.
- Listen with your eyes: try to notice and observe the positive things about people and tell them that you have noticed these things.
- Be empathetic: Try to understand and relate to the reality of the person you are speaking or interacting with. (Think about what it would be like to be in their shoes or think of a time in your life that you felt the same way or were going through the same thing they are)
- If you listen to what someone is saying and take into consideration who they are as a person & what is going on in their life- you will better be able to communicate back to them how you are feeling in a way that they will understand.
- Don’t always put your needs first.
Be Respectful But Assertive
The most important aspect of communication is striking the right balance between staying true to your needs, respecting the integrity of yourself and others and also allowing for the possibility to be affected or influenced by someone. Often this means coming to a compromise. Other times simply expressing your feeling and validating someone else’s experience is enough and nothing more needs to be done or said.
Use “I” Statements in Conflict Situations
When in an intense conflict with someone it is often useful to make I statements in combination with an action instead of pointed You statements. Try saying, “I feel angry” instead of saying “You make me angry”. This shows the other person that you can own your own experience and that you are not categorizing them or putting them in a box. Example: “I see that I hurt you and I feel misunderstood” instead of “Why are you crying, you are mixing my words around, that is not what I said!”
- Take responsibly for your feelings. Don’t blame or assume things about the other person
- Stay away from labeling, judging or harshly commenting the other person’s behavior.
Why Be a Better Communicator?
Respectful and compassionate communication practices spread, influencing how others communicate with you.
Above anything else the best communication happens when two people care about each other’s well being and are willing to admit when they are wrong, explore new possibilities and let go of old concepts.
It may seem difficult but good communication is a skill that can be learned and practiced. We often take this for granted. We don’t have to always know how we feel or have the right words to express our feelings. We don’t always know why we don’t fight for something or why we can’t just let it go. Sometimes we communicate too much as well as too little. Everyone has a different style of communication or problem areas. But no matter what age you are, what position you are in your life you can and should always work on your communication.
If you have problems with communication in your relationships or in daily life, engaging in the process of psychotherapy, marriage counseling, couples therapy, online psychotherapy or counseling can help you learn to communicate better, improving the quality of your life as well as the life of your partner, children and friends. Click here to make an appointment with a Montreal Therapist to learn more effective methods of communication.