I will be the first to admit that sometimes, I’m not the best at communication. More than once I’ve written a SKATTLE article, and upon proofreading it, wonder “What was I even talking about here?!” Sometimes I’ll be having a conversation with a friend and see them become totally lost in my rambles. Even though communicating effectively is a major part of my job, I don’t always get it right.
Sometimes, even when we think that the literary greats would be proud of our prose, we fail to truly connect with others in the way we intend. Having conversations from two different planets can leave a lot to lose in translation, and this can be frustrating for everyone. We feel misunderstood, unheard, and sometimes very isolated. So how can we better express ourselves to others? These tips might surprise you.
Be honest with yourself and those around you
Often, we’ll talk in circles to people because we don’t know how to say what is really on our minds. Sometimes, when all we want to do is pour our hearts out, our pride, fear, and self-judgement stops us in our tracks. We all know the true meaning behind “I’m fine.”, and “I don’t want to talk about it.”
I, for one, have even found myself frustrated at others for not being able to read my mind. “Can’t you just understand me without things needing to be said?!” Expressing ourselves can be a lot of hard work, even when we want this more than anything.
I’ve found that the best way to tackle this is to be totally honest, not only about what you want to say, but how you feel about saying it. “This is really hard for me to say, but…”, or “I’ve been thinking about this a lot…” People respond awesomely when you’re transparent with them, and they’re more likely to really listen to you when they know the gravity behind your words.
Open your ears
Sometimes, when we find ourselves desperate to express our own thoughts, we fail to focus on the other person we are trying to connect with. When we are too absorbed in our moment to share, we fail to actually listen to those we are conversing with.
When we stop listening to others, we stop communicating with them. When you are more focused on saying, rather than responding, the conversation quickly becomes disjointed and confusing. This not only affects their ability to express to you, but also your ability to express to them. When you actually stop and listen deeply, you can respond with more consideration and clarity. Both you and those around you can be better heard and understood when you stop to listen.
Speak from a place of empathy
Stubbornness can be lethal to an effective conversation. If you are unwilling to step outside of your world view to consider another’s, you might as well end the conversation before it begins. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t have a good old fashioned debate, or stand strongly by your views. Talking from a place of empathy doesn’t mean adopting all of the thoughts and feelings of those around you. Speaking from a place of empathy means that you take the time to genuinely consider the experience of others, and find a part of you that is compassionate to that, even if you don’t agree with their views.
It’s also important to note that being empathic only to be heard yourself isn’t the best course of action. Entering conversations with the agenda to only have your truth heard defeats the point of a conversation entirely. Not only does it disregard the needs of others to be heard, it robs you of the rich connection that comes with an honest, empathic discussion.
Now, try putting these tips into action!
Grab a cuppa with a friend, or have some good quality family chat with your kids. Experiment a bit, and see if you start to really feel heard. We’d love to know your findings!
Image by Kris Hoet.