We communicate every day. With technology the opportunities are limitless. We can talk, write, email, text, post, blog, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. You’d think we’d be amazing communicators with all these avenues. Yet, some of us really suck at it.
I have an admission: I’m one of those people. I am a writer who has no idea how to communicate well.
I lay out elaborate sentences filled with charming characters. A reader may feel the cool silk on their skin; smell the vomit-enticing retch of wet clothes that were forgotten for days; or taste the sweet, tangy flavor of a peach, but this does NOT make me a good communicator. It simply means I can create pretty mind pictures.
Poetry comes easily to me. You know why? No one has to make sense of it for it to be considered good. The original message can get completely lost and still offer emotionally moving imagery – making it a masterpiece. In real life, in real relationships, in really complicated situations, pretty mind pictures will NOT cut it. Trust me.
This recent realization proves, it’s no use. I’ve closed my Facebook account; my Instagram no longer exists; I threw my cellphone in the trash; disconnected my internet (I found WiFi at a nearby Starbucks). I’m done. After I communicate this blog, I’m heading to the woods. Don’t follow me. You’ll just be disappointed.
Of course, it’s not this easy. It’s silly to believe that if we remove ourselves from society then our communication skills will disappear (though it was a very good fantasy). That would be defined as AVOIDANCE.
So, back to that communicating well thing…
Why do we communicate? We like sharing. We have a particular point to make. It’s fun. To learn something. To feel something. To create. To get something done.
Communication is deeper than words. It’s deeper than feeling emotions and attempting to put them into words. Communication is about you and another person. It’s about compassion and understanding.
Often times we forget about that other person. That is what makes us so bad in the game. We forget that it’s not simply our feelings, our words, our point to make. There is another person looking at you, listening to you, reading your words. If there wasn’t, there would be no point in communicating.
So why am I so bad at this?
Well, I know how to handle my own hurt feelings, but I don’t know how to handle someone else’s. This is because of fear – fear that if I ACTUALLY say what I mean the person standing in front of me will leave; won’t love me; will think less of me; will see my weakness.
Another silly fantasy. But this one isn’t fun. It’s painful.
And because it’s painful I’ve found ways to subconsciously avoid those real, raw, direct conversations. So much so that I struggle to communicate what I’m feeling, what I want, how I perceive things. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty…how do we fix this?
How do we communicate well?
- Listen. If you aren’t a good listener you will never be a good communicator. The trick to this: live in the moment. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t relive what happened in the past. Listen in the now because that is the reality of what is truly happening in the conversation.
- Observe. Be mindful of what you hear, feel, see. What a person says is not always the entire story. Sometimes you can see more than you can hear. Sometimes you can listen and understand what questions you need to ask in order to further understand. And if you don’t know the answer. Ask. DO NOT assume (we all know how that one works out.).
- Pause. Take a deep breath. If you have the luxury to pause for more than a few seconds, take it. If a person is standing in front of you, this one may be awkward. But it’s better to be seen as awkward than make an ass out of yourself.
- Repeat # 3. Pause some more. This one is good if you are experiencing intense emotions. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Rejection. These are NOT EASY emotions to process and should not be rushed. Take your time. Time can shift your perspective.
- Respond. DO NOT react. Take that word out of your vocabulary. Reacting is the complete opposite of love. The best option is to respond in love. Even if that means not responding. Silence is a response.
Ok, I’ve convince myself to crawl out of the woods and face these uncomfortable moments. They aren’t going away. But we have a choice: learn to cope or continue to sabotage. I like the idea of coping. If you are like me, there is hope. It will take practice. You’re going to fail and wonder how you will ever learn this skill. But you will. Practice over and over and over again. There are opportunities daily. In the end, good communication skills FEEL better even if it’s uncomfortable. Trust me.