(Or in other words, “Do you know what I am saying?”)
In this week’s Feature Friday we are all about communication.
Because really, that’s why we are here on this earth. To connect with others. To be seen, heard and understood. And when that connection is missed due to poor communication road trips, it’s so hard.
Often the communication route gets sidetracked on is this well known alley called, miscommunication.
(We can all think of a time where an issue wasn’t really an issue until it was misunderstood–am-I-right?)
It’s so common to have conflicts become more tangled, lost and upsetting by missing the communication turn off.
Alas, it happens to all of us, all the time–ourselves included.
So, we thought we’d compile just a few of our favourite communication tips and common listening roadblocks, along with a buttload of resources, to help us all step up our communication game.
First we are going to dive into the 5 Love languages by Gary Chapman.
(If you haven’t heard of this resource–go zoom to the links below and explore now! His work is a must.)
In his work, he describes, in all of us, a love tank, which is best kept full for optimum happiness and loved-up-ness. He goes on to explain how there are 5 main languages that are commonly spoken, and each of us has a preference for 1 or 2 over another.
Why is this important?
Before we get into more communication tips, it’s important that we understand these love languages, and those of our partners, to ensure we are starting our communication journey with a full love tank.
(This makes everything easier–trust us.)
Now we are headed to the tips. There’s many more in the links below if you’d like to check them out, but here’s a list we’ve compiled that we like to think of as a solid starting point:
1. “I” Statements, Without Absolutes
This is a big one. It’s so easy, when having hard conversations, to have our phrases begin and centre around, “You.” often paired with absolute statements like, “Never” and “Always”.
“YOU always make the mistakes.”
“Why don’t YOU know this already?”
“YOU always embarrass me!”
“Uh, hello? YOU say that every time, not me.”
“YOU never decide, that’s why we’re in this mess.”
And as we’re sure you notice it when it’s typed out like that, it doesn’t come across well, does it?
A better choice is to use “I” statements and no absolute terms. Here’s what they would look like:
“I feel that this is often a mistake.”
“I think the answer isn’t clear in this situation yet.”
“I felt embarrassed when that happened.”
“I feel like I don’t say that all the time, but sometimes I hear it from you.”
“I think a decision on what to do right now, would be helpful.”
See where we’re going? It’s much more approachable, doesn’t convey blame, allows the other person to respond (rather than defend), and gets our feelings and thoughts across without painting it in absolute terms.
2. The whole truth and nothing but the truth–so help me.
This is so straightforward, common sense, and logical. BUT it needs to be said.
When communicating through a conflict, expressing your needs, etc., be honest with your entire truth. It doesn’t do anyone a service by being untruthful or incomplete when voicing your side. Owning our whole truth and expressing that in full to our partners ensures that they have all the information they need to respond.
If things are missed, left out, or fudged, it’s always going to end poorly with one side being dissatisfied, misunderstood, and unheard.
Not the tasty kind. The “Good – Bad – Good” way of bringing about critiques and concerns.
Sandwiching our negative feedback with good on either end, is a way to soften that blow and convey our intentions of constructive feedback rather than criticism. It’s much more pleasant to receive and can be a great tool to use which eases those defensive tendencies.
“I love how you did the dishes for me today without having been asked. Next time, it would be more helpful if you could put them away, too. I really notice your efforts in helping out around the house and it’s much appreciated.”
Good – Bad – Good
4. Non-Verbal Cues
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
The age old cliche, is never so true.
This tip is super helpful in making sure our intentions are clear, but it’s also helpful in determining how our partners are receiving it.
Non-Verbal Cues are things like tone, inflection, body language, volume, etc. Some easy examples to check in on:
Crossed arms, eye contact, open palms, soft tones, even inflection, mild volume, facial expressions, and breathing patterns.
5. Put away the devices and distractions.
Just like driving, these things are a bad idea when it comes to communication.
Having uninterrupted face-to-face conversation with your partner shows respect to the matters at hand and validation of their importance to you and your relationship.
When we have our phones beeping and buzzing, subtly trying to watch TV around their face, or lap tops shining at us, it becomes very difficult to hear our partners or be heard in return.
Put those distractions away and focus your attention on the conversation to limit the chances of missing what’s being said and reducing coming across like a jerk who doesn’t care.
Alright, now that we have some basic external tips to hold a solid conversation, let’s get on to what will prevent us from internally hearing our partner.
Here’s our major highlights on listening blocks:
(Oh yeah, it’s number one.)
It’s really difficult to hear what our partner is saying when we are taking their expressions and judging them. As they’re telling us about a decision, thought or feeling, we need hear it for what it is–and not what we think about it.
We’re not saying this is easy to do (especially for those of us that like to judge!) but it’s a necessity. No one likes to be judged, so when we’re feeling those judgemental thoughts creep in, kindly (or not so kindly) kick them to the curb.
During conversations, instead of listening to someones complete part in the conversation, we’re rehearsing what we’re going to say next in our heads. This occurs often during conflicts, when we are feeling like we need to justify, defend or prove a point.
Rather than listening fully, then taking time to think of a response, we jump to a conclusion after hearing a few words and start practicing what we are going to say next while waiting for our turn to say it.
This is a big one for those busy folks like us. After a few words, something triggers a chain of thoughts and we start to tune out. Our thoughts have flown away to what we are doing later, what else is on our to-do list, to that fun time we had yesterday, oh and did I remember to do that thing…see what we mean?
It’s a tricky one, that often involves a spacey look, and can be hard to catch. But just like the judgemental thoughts, when they start to drift in, let’s kick them to the curb, too!
As our partners are speaking, we’re trying to jump ahead and figure out what they’re trying to say before they say it. Often with anxious minds, this is where we jump to conclusions.
It’s our attempt to see ahead, to rush through the conversation, to determine the truth, but really it’s just our projections on to them. Pause and take the time to hear what they’re actually going to say and put our mind-reading crystal balls away. (They never really work well do they? LOL!)
There you have it guys. Our simple, starter kit of communication tips. How to begin a conversation journey with a full tank, how to navigate the alleyways of miscommunication and how to pass those road blocks of listening.
We hope you’ve found this helpful! If you’d like to dig around more on the subject, there’s many treasures in the links below.
And let us know if you feel we’ve forgotten anything, we love hearing from you!