Many times, when we feel stressed, we tend to pay less attention to how we are communicating with others. Our tempers can easily to get triggered, emotions fuel what would normally seem to be less than significant problems and our best communication skills fly out the door. Even our body language sends mixed messages, so here are four reminders of things you can do to help improve your communication abilities!
1. Use “I” statements when speaking. When you refrain from statements that begin with “You” you minimize putting the other person on the defensive because making “you” statements is a way to inadvertently project blame. “I feel that this circumstance (whatever happened or is happening) is ______ for me.”
2. Watch your posture and body language. When we feel defensive, threatened or even disregarded, we tend to project that negativity outwardly via our body language by crossing our arms on our chest, putting our hands on our hips, and even avoiding eye contact or rolling our eyes. All of our body language sends signals to other people unconsciously and they often react to those signals. Instead, try to maintain “open” body language by keeping your arms at your sides or hands in your pockets, making eye contact, etc. You can even take it a step further and subtly mimic some of the body language of the person you are speaking with; when you do this, you’re sending the unconscious message that you are on the same page with that person (that you care) and they are more likely to be open to what you are telling them verbally. For example, if you are both sitting at a table and the person you are with puts their elbows on the table and rests their head in their hands, wait a moment and then put your elbows on the table. After another minute has passed, you can rest your head in your hands. If they cross one leg over the other, you follow that example. Don’t do everything that they do, pick and choose. but if they are sending you messages of being closed-off by avoiding eye contact or putting their hands on their hips, be sure to send them open messages, and watch what changes!
3. Avoid swearing and using cuss words. As adults, many of us tend to look at swearing as normal or common in most situations. Sometimes it is even considered “appropriate” to swear. But swearing, especially in the midst of tension, increases the amount of negative energy and adds a “ping” or “sting” to the situation. Even if the person you are talking to swears, keep your focus on the kind of energy you would like to experience, which would be more positive. Similarly, avoid name-calling of any kind, because name calling is very judgmental and negative and makes people feel rejected.
4. Listen, listen, listen to what the other person has to say, without interrupting. Communication is a two-way thing, and it is unreasonable to expect someone to validate or care about your issue if you make it clear that you do not care about theirs. Ask questions if you are unclear about something that they are saying and reiterate what you think the message is back to them so that you both know that you are listening. You don’t have to agree with what is being said, just hear it. ”What I hear you saying is that _____, is that right?” and validate with “I can understand why you feel ______.” Validate their feelings as much as you can and then express your feelings using the “I” statements, especially if you disagree. (Rephrasing what you are being told will also help keep you from making assumptions). Then move on toward some kind of compromise on the issue. If you cannot compromise because emotions are too high, suggest that you both revisit the issue later that day or in a few days so that you can cool down.
Once again, I hope that you will find this information helpful, and thank you for passing it along to your friends!