Whether it’s a good friend, a child, or a spouse, we all have someone in our lives we’d like to communicate better with. Here are seven tips that can help:
|ONE| It takes time. I don’t just mean that it takes a while to move from bad communication to good communication, which is true. I mean that it presumes you have a lot of “margin” time. If your life is rushed, if you are rushed, there is no space for that communication.
If you only really see your spouse for 30 minutes in the evening, during which time you are checking your phones or too exhausted to do anything but watch a show, there is no space. If you only see your teen in between school and violin practice and tutoring, there is no margin time.
Good communication can survive through busy seasons only if time and space are the norm.
|TWO| Stop responding. I know it sounds silly, because you actually want to talk more. But chances are, the other person may be reluctant to share if there is always a response. Sometimes, it’s important just to listen. If you have time in your lives (see #1), you can revisit things later. You don’t have cram in every last thing there is to be said on the topic right now.
This is especially important when you are tempted to correct the other person about everything they say!
|THREE| Be aware of body language. Are you having a conversation in which the other person doesn’t want to make eye contact? Don’t force it. Try facing slightly away (especially if you’re talking with a male), or even doing something mindless, like the dishes or folding laundry. Which leads to:
|FOUR| Give the reluctant talker something to do with their hands that doesn’t involve too much brain power. Drying dishes, folding towels, stuffing envelopes, coloring. A lot of people are able to open up more when they are slightly busy and not focused on having to talk.
|FIVE| Rephrase without judgement. “It sounds like you are saying you are angry,” rather than, “it’s a bit silly to be angry about that.” The other person will feel understood rather than condemned.
|SIX| Don’t pass judgment on feelings. Feelings are a-moral. (Not immoral!) They come, they go –and often they go more quickly when we let them out.
(How a person chooses to act based on those feelings is, of course, a different question.)
|SEVEN| Share your own story, but not in a morality tale kind of way.
We’ve all sat through a parental, “Well, when I was your age…” lecture. Sharing your story can show empathy and understanding if you tell it with the intention of saying, “I understand” rather than “You should…”
Which of these do you find most helpful?