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Improving Communication Skills

April 04, 2020

Improving Communication Skills

Communication is all around us.  Whether we are actively engaged in conversation, listening intently for a newborn’s cry, or rolling our eyes in exasperation, messages are being sent, received, and processed every moment.  While communication is somewhat instinctive, effective communication is a learned skill.  It is more than simply swapping ideas or general information.  Effective communication also grasps the emotion behind the message. 

Mastering the skills of communication may improve relationships at home and work, aid in decision-making, and streamline problem solving.  Additionally, strong communication is beneficial when difficult or potentially controversial messages are necessary. 

Clear verbal and nonverbal messages, along with active listening, shape the skills needed for effective communication.  Active listening is the art of empathic listening, where one hears the spoken words while striving to understand what the other person is feeling, sensing, and thinking.  In active listening, you perceive the verbal messages and the nonverbal cues.  Verbal words make up only a percentage of what is communicated. Therefore, it is imperative to train yourself to understand nonverbal signals and become a master at active listening.

There are many strategies for sharpening your communication skills.  Consider these principles to help guide your speaking skills, body language and tone, and active listening skills:

 

Improving Verbal Communication

  • Be assertive- The word assertive is often misunderstood to mean aggressive, however, when you are assertive you are simply stating your point of view. Being assertive eliminates bullying and may even decrease stress.  A clear response allows you to say “no” when needed and avoid too many commitments.  When someone is aggressive, the listener might feel defensive and reactive.  On the contrary, a passive communicator might be quick to over-commit by saying “yes” to tasks for which they do not have time.  Avoid conflict by communicating a straightforward, assertive message. 
  • Focus on facts- Begin your conversation by describing what you see or hear in a situation. Be specific and avoid exaggerations and generalizations; smooth talking will not replace general knowledge.  Once the facts are presented you can then offer your thoughts or feelings.
  • Avoid trigger words- There are certain words it is helpful to avoid. For example, it is much easier to exaggerate when emotional, so eliminating “always” and “never” will help to decrease the emotion behind those statements.  Also, instead of starting a conversation with “You,” rephrase it to an “I” statement.  For example, “I feel frustrated when you forget to clean the kitchen.”  “I” statements are accurate and avoid placing blame or guilt on another.

 

Improving Nonverbal Communication

  • Stay present- When you are participating in a conversation, be aware of your distractions and watch your body language. If you are constantly checking your phone or watch, you are no longer communicating your attention. 
  • Stay focused- It is easy to bring up past grievances or issues in a heated conversation. Nothing will distract you faster from your present goal than referring to past issues.
  • Stay cool- Good communication might be a multi-step process, and sometimes emotions can run high. Take a time-out if needed to cool off or just refresh yourself if you feel fatigued. 

 

Improving Active Listening

Remember, the goal of active listening is to understand, to the best of your ability, what the speaker is thinking, feeling, and sensing.  Try to be empathic and really hear their point of view.  Active listening goes much deeper than simply hearing the words; you also honor the person saying them.  You do not have to agree with everything they say, but a good way to minimize conflict is to seek to understand and be genuine. 

 

Communication is challenging because each person in a relationship has his or her own perspective on what happened.  So perhaps one of the greatest strategies of communication is to own up to our mistakes and take responsibility for them.  If you feel stuck in communication, be willing to ask for help.  There are some conversations and conflicts that simply cannot be resolved between two people.  Having a mediator or professional involved will help navigate appropriate and fair communication.  This might truly be the best option to maintain or grow a healthy relationship. 

 

Benefits of Improved Communication

There are many benefits to improving your communication skills.  In addition to bettering your relationships, effective communication may help boost your self-esteem.  Being able to clearly articulate thoughts, feelings, and needs demonstrates a level of self-worth.  You also might notice a genuine enjoyment for your job or other roles in life.  Last, being able to recognize your own emotions and those of others will prove an invaluable resource in your life.  Improving and fine-tuning effective communication skills can be hard work, but the results are worth the effort. 

 

Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/04/04/10-communication-secrets-of-great-leaders/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/assertive/art-20044644?pg=2




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