Communication isn’t easy. It takes work and practice. We aren’t always going to get it right, and that is normal. Healthy communication takes planning; it takes work; it takes effort. Here are eight tips you can try when working on your communication skills. These work for any relationship - communicating with a spouse, a child, a co-worker or a friend.
1. Use “I” statements
Try saying things like “I feel upset when you____” instead of “you’re making me feel upset.” Using a “YOU” statement can indicate blame and accusation which typically puts the other person on the defensive immediately.
2. Be clear and direct.
This can be tricky, but it is important. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on the situation) the other person cannot read your mind. You must (using those “I” statements) tell the other person what you think, feel, and need.
3. Don’t push aside your feelings.
In order to be direct, you have to allow yourself to experience your feelings. Don’t let things build up and become bigger problems.
4. Ask questions.
When you are in a conversation with another person, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you do not understand what someone is saying, ask them about it. (Use your “I” statements here too….”I am a bit confused about what you just said” as opposed to “You are confusing me.”) Ask questions about things that are not making sense so that no one is making assumptions.
5. Build trust.
Sometimes trust is broken. That may need a different blog post. But for this - unless someone has given you a reason not to believe them, it is important to believe that they are telling you the truth. In these situations (and again this is not in situations where trust has been broken), trust that the person means well, and this will ultimately strengthen the communication.
6. Talk in person.
Text messages and emails can be very misleading. This type of technological communication can lead to misunderstanding one another. If you talk in person (or via video chat) you have the opportunity to hear the tone of voice and see body language.
7. Don’t yell.
Getting angry or defensive during an argument happens when couples are learning healthy communication. But if you’re feeling upset or angry, take a break until everyone is cooled off. Twenty minutes is the beginning time needed to reduce blood pressure and regain emotional regulation when feelings are elevated or agitated.
8. Be willing to apologize.
Everyone makes mistakes. I repeat: Everyone Makes Mistakes. Saying you’re sorry (and meaning it) goes a long way in helping move forward after a fight.