How would you rate your communication skills? What are you already proud of, where are you successful in communication? Are there areas for improvement?
Communication is such a broad topic. As broad as our needs in our interactions with others. The quality of these interactions are based on how much effort we put into understanding the concept of effective communication and investing in developing skills that enable us to improve.
I often talk to the attendees of our Personal Effectiveness workshops about this topic and their challenges in communication. You’ll be glad to hear that many of the struggles they talk about are relatively easy to resolve. This is because we have no power to change the World and others involved. What a great relief and quite frankly (speaking from experience) I wouldn’t even try! We do however have the power to develop ourselves and this is where our strength in communication lies. I am often asked to explain this approach, because it’s not always clear how our communication can be improved without considering other parties involved.
More often than not we can do a lot to move things forward. Whether it’s a personal or a professional interaction, it always comes back to us and our willingness to admit that we have more to offer. Our communication is affected by our thoughts, beliefs, misconceptions, judgements and emotions. If we make room for self-awareness and self-management in these areas, we will quickly see a change happen. It takes honesty and courage to admit “I play a part in this”. As courageous and honest as I see attendees of our workshops. Signing up and showing up is the first step to improve…
Here are some of the less common but very important ways to improve our skills around communication. 5 Unexpected Ways To Improve Your Communication. They are entirely about you. Nobody else.
1. Emotional awareness
We want other to do it for us, but we don’t do it for ourselves. “Why don’t they think about my feelings?”, “Why aren’t they more considerate?” Do you? Are you?
Emotional awareness means that you must learn to recognise and accept your emotions. Feel comfortable in your own skin. Emotions are the motivators for our actions and behaviours. Being tuned into your emotional state can help you understand yourself better, help others understand you and help you understand them. If you don’t understand your own emotions, how can you clearly communicate your feelings and needs to others? Your Emotional Awareness is an enabler for the rest of our points on this list.
Welcome all emotions. Anger, sadness, even fear. Step by step learn to communicate and educate others about them. It starts with you. How can you tell others how you feel if you don’t know? A strong and deep connection with yourself will enable similar connections with others. This can also lead to a greater ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately for more effective communication. Emotional awareness helps you understand and empathise, communicate clearly and effectively, even when delivering difficult messages.
2. Trust and expect the best from others
In my recent blog post I shared the lessons I learnt about trust in just one week.
Trust—it’s a concept that’s comforting and terrifying at the same time. It takes time.
Often the quality of our communication is based on the opinions we have of the others involved. If we consider them as unworthy of trust, they don’t even have to speak or take any particular action. They don’t even have to be present with us for the communication or relationship to suffer.
“What if we were prepared to be impressed rather than disappointed…? Wouldn’t it be easier?”
Lack of trust in communication can break the relationship. If I don’t believe in you, what you do or say, if I expect the worst from you, how open will I be in my communication with you? Will I be willing to listen?
Next time when you are about to talk to someone, take a minute or two to check your view of this person, your level of trust and expectations towards them. Trusting is brave. It doesn’t mean that you know the person inside out and you have all the answers. It simply means that you are open to be impressed rather than disappointed.
3. Send clear messages
Speak your truth and be honest. Tell people how you feel and what you think. They are more ready to hear it than what we give them credit for. We shy away from it afraid to speak our mind, afraid that it will jeopardise positive relationships. In reality our fear to say it how we see it, has nothing to do with others.
We are ready and empowered to do it when we feel we deserve to be treated better. We are valuable and can be appreciated more when we know that what we have to say is a valuable contribution to the conversation. And again – we don’t need others to develop those things. It’s the confidence in knowing that you are equal in communication with every other human being. Your input is worthwhile. Before you tell others how you feel or what you think, make sure that it comes from an authentic place inside you. There is a difference between
“I feel confused and I am not sure if you notice all of the hard work I put into this project” and “You never appreciate me!”
Before I expect anyone else to value me, I will do it myself first.
4. Ask questions to clarify
As simple as that. Check before you form judgement or opinion. If you are unsure of someone’s intentions, follow the path of positive expectations and give them the benefit of the doubt. Ask again. “Do I understand you correctly…”. Clarify as much as you need to, to understand the other person’s reality.
Many of our frustrations in communication are a result of misunderstanding and a lack of a reality check. Before you attach a negative label to someone or their behaviour make sure that you have all the facts and evidence right in front of you. Otherwise all of your conflicts are going to be over imaginary issues. Sounds like a disappointing realisation to me and a major waste of time and energy.
5. Be aware of what your body is saying
Body language can say more than we might want to believe. This is because our mind is designed to scan the environment for danger. We are prepared to draw conclusions before the individual before us even opens his mouth to speak. We are automatically identifying friends and enemies. You do it – so remember that others do it too. Automatically.
Are you always aware of your body language? Do you know what your facial expressions are? What do you express through your non-verbal communication and is it in line with what you really think or feel?
An open body with arms relaxed at your sides tells anyone around you that you are approachable and open to hearing what they have to say. Often, communication can be stopped, before it has the chance to start, by body language that tells people you don’t want to be approached. Appropriate posture and relevant facial expression, can make even difficult conversations flow more smoothly.
These findings are a result of the interaction and exchange of experiences with those who attended our Personal Effectiveness workshops. We talk about Assertiveness, Planning, Time and Energy Management. But regardless of the topic, there are always stories shared by students about their challenges and a lot of them revolve around communication, simply because we have to interact with other people every day. So I turn it upside down and encourage you to look at and invest in yourself first. The quality of your relationships with others is fully dependant on the relationship you have with yourself. Invest in that one first. It’s for life.
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