I didn’t know I had a communication problem until my friend pointed it out to me. I won’t even lie; my first reaction was to be defensive. Like me ke? how now? I am the compulsive gister among my friends, how could i have a communication problem? This was what I thought until he pointed out something to me. I looked at all the signs and patterns, and I realized how right he was. For me, I would typically only disclose information that I believed was necessary for the other person to know, and only a little more at times. Naturally, this level of withholding caused a rift in my relationships.
To me, it was a kind attempt to spare the other person from unnecessary details. A very wrong assumption, especially when it comes to people I care about, such as friends, family, employers, employees, and so on. You might be thinking, ah, but it’s not that deep. But the truth is, holding out small details can easily be seen as excluding people you care about. You can be extremely chatty and still not let people in. Ah. Anyway, I am now learning to state clearly how I feel about things I am uncomfortable with for instance, instead of assuming that the other person should just know. Imagine my shock when it occurred to me that people are not mind readers and I must speak up exactly and clearly on things I want or don’t want. Communication is leaving room for small talk and being ok with hearing little details about the other person’s life.
I thought to share a few other things I am practicing to get better at this communication business;
- Think carefully about what you want to say and be specific about what you want to convey.
- Make certain that your message is clear so that the listener hears it correctly and understands what you mean. In addition, solicit feedback on what you have said.
- Discuss what you want, need, and feel – use ‘I’ statements like ‘I need,’ ‘I want,’ and ‘I feel’.
- Keep an open mind when listening to the other person. Put your own thoughts aside for the time being and try to understand their intentions, feelings, needs, and desires (this is called empathy).
- Be aware and mindful of your tone of voice.
- Ask open-ended questions.
A big part of communication also involves understanding the audience being communicated to and tailoring your message, tone and body language appropriately. Learning to speak with tact, honesty and consideration is just as important as the message being passed across. Always keep in mind that communication is a skill that can always be improved. It’s okay if you don’t always get it right. Be open to learning.