The ability to communicate effectively is an essential skill in today’s world. Communication is a dynamic process and how you communicate can have a positive or negative effect on the situation at hand or the relationship as a whole.
Communication is more than just words… It’s how you say it, including your tone of voice; why you say it, the intention behind the message; when you say it, the timing of it; what you don’t say and your body language.
There’s a lot to uncover, so lets get started!
What is communication?
Communication is a means of sending or receiving information, to put it in simple terms.
Another way to explain it, is that there usually is a sender, a receiver and a message encoded by both the sender and the receiver. It also includes feedback or noise. Feedback is the response of the receiver to the message, and noise is anything that can disrupt the communication. In other words, you talk and I listen and my reaction would either be receptive to what you’re saying or I can get triggered by what you’re saying and give you a trigger response instead.
We’re often taught to react, not listen to what the other person is actually saying.
So, miscommunications occur when you react without actually hearing what the other person has to say.
What you need to realize is that nobody is a mindreader, even if at times it may feel like it. If something is bothering you, don’t neglect it and brush it to the side. Give your ego/mind a space to express itself. Ego often acts out on a trigger response because it likes to keep you safe, even to its own detriment. Ego doesn’t like anything new and unknown. So when you’re learning a new skill, or even if you’re thinking of investing in your personal development by hiring a coach, your ego will feel threatened. When it feels threatened, it likes to procrastinate in making decisions, and it may tell you things like but you don’t have the money to do this, it isn’t the right time, how would you even cope with your time since you already have so much going on. That is its way of keeping you safe.
When it comes to communication, you may notice yourself bottling things up and expecting the other person to just understand. When the water finally boils over, and you burst through your seams, the person opposite to you doesn’t have the slightest clue as to what you’re reacting to, and that aggravates you even more. At any point, did you check in with yourself, with the other person, to make your needs clear to them? Do you know why you’re going on a rampage, having such a strong reaction?
If you don’t have a clue, then how can the other person just understand where you’re coming from?
Or if it’s seemingly obvious to you, has it been expressed prior to this point? My guess is no.
This is by no means a judgment, this space is a judgment-free zone, it’s merely an observation of other people and seeing the gaps where they lie within their relationships. By and large, people lack this vitally important tool.
And I did too at one point. I thought if I just pleased everybody around me, neglecting my own needs, then everything and everyone would be happy. It actually turns out, it caused more havoc and chaos than anything else. You see, when you’re not congruent to your own needs, when you don’t express yourself and say what you actually want to say, you’re doing a huge disservice not just to other people around you but most importantly, to yourself.
The impacts of not communicating your needs
- You learn not to trust yourself (I’ve talked about this in my previous article)
- You always put yourself last on the list
- It feels as if you don’t matter
- You may feel as though nobody cares about you or your needs, truly
- Your voice is never heard, you feel unseen
- Slowly but surely, there are elements of becoming bitter
- You start lashing out at random things while the other person is wondering where did the storm come from
I could go on with the list but I’m sure you get the point.
Communication is a tool that anyone can practice and use
As the old saying goes, nobody is born a blacksmith. Meaning it’s a skill, that is learned over time and through practice. Immense amount of practice. It will be uncomfortable at first, and your ego may be screaming what are you doing?! But remember, your ego is only trying to keep you safe and protected… even to its own detriment.
The more authentic you can be to yourself, the more you learn who you are. When you know who you are, you learn what your needs are. As you learn your needs, you’ll learn to set clear boundaries with other people. You set your own standards of what you find acceptable, and how others should treat you. When you learn to be congruent to yourself, you’ll learn to express your own needs.
You’ll in fact learn to say no when previously you’ve agreed to do something for somebody that you didn’t want to do to begin with.
There are so many different ways of saying no without actually using the word no. Or being apologetic about why you don’t want to or can’t do something. Apologies aren’t necessary, and no is a healthy part of all relationships.
Some examples would include:
- I would love to come but I can’t tonight
- I won’t be able to make it and I’m grateful you invited me
- Unfortunately that doesn’t work for me right now
- That sounds amazing, it’s just not something I can commit to right now
- Thank you for thinking of me, tonight I plan on laying low
At some point in my own personal journey, I just decided that my expectation of people is for them to always be honest with me. It takes away from my own power when somebody else gets to decide on my behalf what they can and cannot share with me, in the fear of me getting hurt. I always rather know the truth and deal with the emotions than be left in the dark. With that said, I’ve needed to meet others half-way, by creating that space for them to be able to come and talk honestly and openly with me.
It is no coincidence that around the same time, I learned a very valuable lesson about relationships: openness, honesty and open communication sets the foundation for any relationship be it personal, business, or romantic. By being able to talk openly about anything and everything, it also creates intimacy among the two people and builds trust.
At this point you’re probably thinking, that’s well and true but how does one learn effective communication?
First things first, when there is a bit of a temper tantrum coming along that often is a tell tale sign that there is a neglected need somewhere. Usually it stems from your parental figures not giving you what you needed as a child. Start by paying attention when these moments occur, what is actually happening, where do you feel threatened and where in your body do you feel this emotion. What happened to you as a child is not your responsibility. However, as an adult it is your responsibility now to nurture your inner child and ensure he or she feels safe and protected.
When there’s a strong reaction, ask yourself is this a trigger or is it a pattern? How is it serving you? How has it kept you safe? Become the observer of your thoughts and reactions. Start by getting curious and exploring when did you learn the behavior? Trigger responses rarely have much to do with the situation at hand but more to do with the very first event that you can remember happening.
Back to communication, the language and verbiage you use holds an important role. It goes deeper than that though, it’s the way you treat yourself that is reflected in the external world through relationships.
Relationships are mirrors to your inner world. The way you see yourself, what you think of yourself, how compassionate you are, or how hard you are to yourself - they’re all reflected with the people in your external world. If someone causes an emotional response within you, you have the power to shift it. You have the power to rewrite the script.
Set your own standards
You set your standards to how you allow others to treat you. If you have people pleasing tendencies, this will be challenging at first. You may find yourself making a decision of a behavior you no longer tolerate, only to find out that it’s slipped through your fingers. It’s okay, no judgment just observation. Have compassion and trust you’ll do better next time.
Break those vows
Break the old vows that you’ve accumulated over time, the vows that you know no longer serve you. Learn to be congruent to yourself; if something doesn’t feel right within you, it probably isn’t. Listen to that.
Be authentic, be honest
Define what authenticity means to you, define who you are in each situation. In order to express yourself freely, you need to know who you are first. You learn your needs, you learn your boundaries, and once you know, it is easier to express them with clarity and honesty without getting defensive.
Communicate your needs
It starts by knowing who you are as I mentioned above, knowing your needs, knowing your boundaries. And also, asking for what you need. Asking for support is a strength, not a weakness. If the other person is unable to deliver what you’re asking for, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care. It just may mean that they’re currently incapable of giving that what is asked. Try not to make it mean anything about you or the quality of the relationship.
No blame, no shame, no guilt
Learn to use language that doesn’t blame, shame, or guilt the other person. This should also be extended to yourself as well; if you feel as though you’ve made a mistake, own up to it, take responsibility but don’t put yourself down over it. And don’t put the other person down either, or use this as a tactic to get something out of them.
There are many layers to communication, many ways of expressing yourself, various ways to look at this topic. It’s taken me years to learn this skill, and I still get nervous about expressing my authenticity at times. It feels difficult and challenging in the beginning. Just like any muscle needs training, so does the skill of communication.
This is what I teach my clients and students probably the most as it is a valuable tool for anyone to have. As I mentioned in the beginning, some of the biggest lessons in this lifetime for me have been around communication so I’ve studied it for years, put it in practice and now pass that knowledge to others.
It feels liberating when you can be authentically you, without any games or pretenses.