Improving Communication

Being able to communicate effectively is a skill everyone needs to have.  Authentic communication is more than the exchange of information.  It’s the ability to understand the emotions and intentions behind the data being conveyed.  It’s a two-way transmission between the messenger and the receiver

Eckhart Tolle says that “True communication is communion- the realization of oneness, which is love.”  I think this is the reason we communicate, to connect with others through love.

As human beings, the ability to communicate efficiently would seem intuitive. It is when we are conversing from our authentic, soulful selves.  But the egoic mind interferes with most of the interactions we have with others.  For example, we make a statement. The other person hears something completely different from what we intended.  Or there are misunderstandings from word usage and frustrations from not listening because we are thinking about how to reply.

Improving our communication skills so we are clear, concise, and understood easily is an area we all can strive towards.  Why?  Because cultivating our ability to connect with others means it will enhance all our relationships by increasing trust and respect for one another and improving our social and emotional health. 

The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through. ~ Sydney J. Harris

What Are the Obstacles to Effective Communication?

Let’s look at some ways in which we sabotage our interactions with others.  Our emotions can wreak havoc on our ability to speak and be understood.  Why? Because when we are stressed or upset, our ability to interpret non-verbal communication is at a disadvantage.  We also can put off confusing non-verbal cues and react instead of responding appropriately because we misunderstood something.   To overcome this issue, take a few deep breaths to calm ourselves to communicate authentically. 

Are we fully present while conversing, or are we trying to multitask?  If we aren’t focused on the discussion, we aren’t truly listening to what’s being said.  So it shouldn’t surprise us when we miss receiving information vital to responding well.  To avoid this as an impediment to communicating, become fully present with the person we’re talking with, look them in the eye as we are conversing. 

Not listening for comprehension is another obstacle to successful communicating.  We are waiting for our turn to speak instead of genuinely hearing what is being said.  In doing this, we miss pieces of data that may be significant to our understanding.  Or we are interrupting the speaker because we think we know what they are trying to convey to us, which shows a complete lack of respect for the person talking.  Instead, consciously choose to listen to the speaker for full comprehension of what is being said, then pause and prepare our response. 

We never listen when we are eager to speak. ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

The Ego and Communicating Confidently

The ego gets fearful of authentic communication.  Why? Because when we are genuinely conversing with another, we are sharing ourselves and our vulnerabilities.  The ego doesn’t enjoy being exposed.  It prefers to hide those so-called weaknesses behind a wall of lies and innuendos. 

The ego thinks that a little white lie is harmless, but it’s not.  Allowing the ego to pretend or withhold only makes communication more problematic and will harm our relationships. 

For us to connect authentically with others, we need to speak from a place of confidence.  We need to know ourselves and value our opinions.  We need to express ourselves without encroaching on others. Being able to convey anger or other negative feelings respectfully is imperative to our dealings with others.  

Seek honest feedback to test how effective we are at communicating with others.  Then heed the information.   Accept compliments and criticism in ways that support us to learn from the experience.  Openly receiving feedback helps us improve our lives.  Asking for support when we need it shows others we know our skill-set and are unafraid to ask for their assistance.

Learning to tell others “no” without feeling bad or setting personal boundaries, so we aren’t taken advantage of, are ways to communicate confidently.  Being assertive can be done with compassion.  It entails seeing the other’s perspective and then stating our position from a place of love.  Sometimes looking for alternatives can allow everyone to feel good about the exchange. 

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Sarcasm and Communicating

The definition of sarcasm is using irony to mock or convey contempt.  Although irony can be humorous, mocking is cruel, and conveying contempt is not a positive way to communicate.

I believe society has made sarcasm an acceptable form of harassment or bullying.  We see it in schools, colleges, and the workplace.  When we hear a sarcastic statement, we laugh.  We share cynical memes on our social media.  It has become an invasive yet acceptable form of comedy by our culture, despite its disrespectful and scornful nature.

We see it in our relationships as the cheap shots we take at our family and friends that cause everyone to laugh.  Let’s re-evaluate this form of disrespect and unloving cynicism.  And instead, show compassion and empathy when we are using humor in our conversations. 

Humor can help lighten the discussions, but it needs to be gentle and respectful.  The playfulness reminds us not to take things so seriously. 

Communication is the solvent of all problems and is the foundation for personal development. ~ Peter Shepherd

The Basics of Non-Verbal Communication

Studies have shown that up to 55% of our communication is done non-verbally.  So, we base most of what we comprehend on our non-verbal cues and not the words we use.  Our body language, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, muscle tension or relaxation, and breathing tell others more than the words spoken.  Through these non-verbal ways, we tell others how we authentically feel, and even the ego can’t suppress these cues. 

We can tell when someone is closed.  The person is avoiding eye contact.  They may cross their arms in front of their chest or tap their foot, showing us their impatience. This defensive posturing makes effective communication difficult.  We need to be open- arms down, relaxed and maintaining eye contact to connect with others.  Everyone has subtle differences in their physical signals, so we need to know that not everyone responds the same.  We also need to understand cultural differences as well. 

Some examples of non-verbal communication:

  • Folded arms in front of a person may mean they’re feeling defensive or closed off.
  • Lack of eye contact may mean they’re not interested in what’s being said, are ashamed of something, or find it difficult to talk about the subject.
  • A louder, more aggressive tone may mean the person is escalating the discussion and is becoming emotionally involved. It might also suggest they feel like they’re not being heard or understood.
  • Someone who’s turned away from us when talking may mean disinterest or being closed off.

We need to pay attention to our non-verbal signs and make sure they match our messaging.  If we are stressed or nervous, how we feel will be expressed, so calming ourselves with breathing exercises will help us communicate better.  When we are authentically communicating, our body language and words match because they are honest and from the heart

Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success. ~ Paul J. Meyer

The Art of Listening

The most crucial aspect of effective communication comes down to our ability to listen– to comprehend what is being communicated to us.  Hearing is a physical process for us to sense sound vibrations.  Hearing doesn’t mean we listen or that we understand what is being told to us. 

When we are engaged in conversation, we hear the tone of the other’s voice. We feel the emotions and the intentions of the other person.  This process allows us to let the speaker feel heard, which deepens the connection with them. 

To be an engaged listener, we need to focus on the speaker.  Look them in the eye, not around the room or the cell phone.  Stay present. Don’t be thinking of something else or waiting for our turn to speak.  Don’t interrupt the speaker, and don’t try to change the topic.  Show interest in what is being said by occasionally nodding, smiling, or giving small verbal cues to encourage the speaker to continue. Then summarize what we understood so the other can clarify any miscommunication.

Listening to someone doesn’t mean we agree with what they say.  It shows we respect the speaker as a person and value what they feel.  To effectively communicate, we need to set aside blame, shame, and judgment in order to understand what is being said and connect authentically.

A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something. ~ Wilson Mizner

How to Have Difficult Conversations

Talking with someone whose beliefs or opinions differ from ours can be problematic, particularly if we regularly communicate with them.  To effectively connect during trying dialogues, we need to articulate our message clearly.  How we say something is going to be just as important as the words we use. We want to maintain an even tone while making eye-contact.  We want to keep our bodies relaxed and open.  When the other person is finished speaking, we should summarize what we heard.  This summary enables us to deal with any faulty hearing on our part. 

If the conversation gets heated, we need to breathe to calm ourselves.  We want to reduce the intense emotions we may have and regulate the feelings, so we behave in a way that doesn’t harm anyone.  Suppose we can find some humor in the situation. In that case, we can use it to relieve the stress for everyone having the discussion. 

Be willing to bend a little.  Compromise by seeking a middle ground where all parties can feel good about the outcome.  When all involved care more about one another than getting their way, it allows for solutions and better relationships. 

Difficult conversations commonly occur when there are a lot of emotions from the parties involved.  But suppose we focus on hearing what the other is saying, respecting their viewpoint, and value the relationship more than being right. In that case, we can move past the differences and find common ground. 

Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act. ~ James Thurber

Moving Forward

We are responsible if our communication is clear.  By using simple language, we help others better understand what we are conveying.  Be aware of nonverbal cues and listen with the intent to understand.  Communication skills are learnable.  But it starts with one person willing to improve their skill set.   

By improving our communication skills, we can master difficult conversations, make ourselves be heard, and make authentic connections with others.  These skills enable us to make others feel heard, understood, and respected. 

Our relationships don’t exist in a void.  They occur between two human beings who bring their emotions, experiences, and expectations into every conversation.  It’s through authentic listening that we lower stress, tension and can calm others.  Why?  Because when we feel we are honestly heard and understood, we feel respected; thus, authentic connections are made.  

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. ~ Tony Robbin

Do you need support to help you communicate more effectively?  Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please contact me, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.

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