How would you rate yourself when it comes to communicating your thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs? I’m guessing most of you will say that you’re pretty good at it. After all, you’ve been using full sentences since were about 4 years old, right?
Great communication is much more than just using full sentences. Great communication not only requires a fundamental use of words, it requires the proper use of those words. It also requires you to be able to share your thoughts and feelings rationally.
When you throw emotions into the mix, clear communication can become very difficult at best. Have you ever had a conversation that quickly escalated into an argument? I know I have!
Odds were that you didn’t want an argument, you wanted a conversation to try to conversation about something that was close to your heart. Yet, in a matter of moments you found yourself shouting at each other, furious with each other, and maybe even saying some hurtful, hateful things that you can never take back.
Here are some tips to improve your communication.
Choose your words wisely.
Words have meaning and the words you use will betray your deepest thoughts and desires. They will also give you deep insight to what the other person’s deepest thoughts are.
For example, in a heated exchange with my sister a couple of years ago, she referred to me as an interloper regarding my dad’s estate. She and I haven’t spoken since. Now, please understand, there were a lot of other issues over that past 40 years that had gotten us to that point, and I am as culpable as she is.
The bottom line is that that one word told me that she considered me a trespasser, someone that wasn’t wanted or invited. Make sure you know what words mean when you use them.
Avoid the use of global words like “always” and “never”.
One of the surest ways to start a disagreement is to use the words always or never when you want to make someone aware of something they are doing that bothers you.
Rarely are they an accurate portrayal of the other’s actions. For example; “You never take out the trash!” They may not take it out regularly, but is it really accurate? Do they never take it out or just not as often as you would like?
Or how about; “You always have time for your friends, but you never have time for me!” That’s a double whammy! Odds are this statement is an over exaggeration and would be more accurately stated this way. “It appears that you seem to have more time for your friends than you do for me.”
Try to think in terms of how things appear realistically to you. Rarely should these words be used seriously. As often as I’m in a good mood, I can’t say that I’m “always” in a good mood. I’m usually in a good mood.
Never start a conversation with “you”.
When you want to have a serious conversation about something that bothers you, always start with “I”. When you start with “you”, you’re being accusatory.
This will cause the other person to become very defensive right from the first words out of your mouth. They feel like they’re being attacked. For example, let’s use the garbage example from above.
If you say, “You never take the garbage out when I ask.”, the other person is immediately going to get defensive and start pointing out all the times they do take the garbage out.
However, if you were to say, “I feel ignored and disrespected when you don’t take the garbage out when I ask.”, you immediately disarm the situation by sharing how their actions affect you.
It doesn’t make any difference what the conversation is about. Start with sharing how their words or actions make you feel before you share the offending action. Try it and see how it works the next time you want to have a serious conversation with someone.
Learn to make good eye contact.
On a more positive note, good eye contact is important to great communication. I’m not talking about staring at them like you’re wishing their head would explode. I’m talking about a casual look.
A Michigan State University study suggests the following:
- Make eye contact 50% of the time while you’re talking and 70% of the time while you’re listening.
- Maintain it for 4-5 seconds at a time. After this time passes, you can slowly glance to the side and then go back to establishing eye contact.
- Think about where you’re looking. Maintaining eye contact is easy because you’re looking at the other person. However, when you look away, do it slowly without darting your eyes. This can make you look shy or nervous. And don’t look down; remember to look from side-to-side. Looking down can give the appearance that you lack confidence.
- Establish eye contact first before you begin talking. Don’t look down or look at something before you begin speaking.
- Remember that while you’re listening and maintaining eye contact, you should smile, open your face and look interested.
- Eye contact will come easy to some, but if it doesn’t for you, it’s okay to practice until you become confident.
There are many other aspects to great communication that can’t be covered in this single article. Things like facial expressions, body language, and bad breath are among a few of the other things that can make the difference between a great conversation and one that chases people away.
I sincerely hope you’ll think about what I’ve shared with you today and use this information to help you be more proactive and successful in your dating life.
Join me next week for “Are you attracting people or are you turning them off?”