Families are usually devastated when couples choose to get divorced, especially when they realize that something so simple could’ve avoided all the trauma.
After reviewing a lot of my client’s cases, friends, and family; I’ve realized, just like the rest of professionals, that the main reason people divorce is because of bad communication.
I am a communicator by profession and by heart. Even though I’ve been working in the business for almost 10 years, at some point I realized that just like a lot of my clients, I wasn’t being a proper communicative person in other aspects of my life. After some hard thoughts and practice, I came up with 5 principles that will make communication in any relationship simple, effective, meaningful, and beneficial.
1. Learn to Listen by Relating
Listening to someone else should be easy, right? Well, the fact is that sometimes it gets very hard to let someone else finish saying what they want, especially when they’re making points that are not true, when they’re just talking and talking for a long period that feels like hours, or when they’re simply not saying anything that sounds interesting to us. Learning how to be a good listener takes time, and it can even make you feel exasperated, just like everything that’s worth it in life.
A good way to start learning to be a good listener is by always pushing yourself to see and feel what the other person is telling you, to really imagine it. Let’s say my friend Angie tells me about how awful it was when she got to the airport and was informed that her flight back home was canceled. I immediately picture myself in an airport after a long day, waiting to get to the comfort of my house, take a warm shower, pet my dog, and get in my comfy bed, then I also picture someone telling me I won’t be able to do that because my flight got canceled — and just like that, in that second I can relate to the way she felt and I can give her an authentic response.
Practicing this will help you become an empathetic person and will expand something that sometimes we don’t use; our imagination.
Another good tip is to breathe mindfully, deep breaths if necessary. This will help your brain get oxygen and decrease the heated feeling of wanting to interrupt the other person to say something. At the end of the day, remember that real communication is two-way, and other people want to be heard the same way you do.
2. Be Mindful of Your Non-Verbal Gestures
Sometimes I hear from my loved ones that I look angry or unbothered, and most of the time that is really not the case, but the truth is my facial expression can say that without me even realizing it. After I was made aware of that, I thought back of all the people that I also perceived as angry, annoyed, or sad, and I remembered how difficult it felt to talk and communicate with them, to question how they would react to what I wanted to tell them.
When we perceive someone having a negative emotion, we instantly put a little barrier between that person and us; it’s human nature to want to protect ourselves from uncomfortable situations that may lead us to get hurt.
It’s not wrong at all to show our vulnerable sides when we want to, especially when we need support from the people we care about. However, when we plan to engage in an effective conversation we need to be mindful of all our non-verbal gestures, a good trick to train your brain to do this is by always reading the expression of the person that is next to you, and then immediately ask yourself what is your face saying, making you aware of what you want your gestures to communicate.
This will also help you read people easily and be ready with the approach you’re going to have with them if contact or conversation were to happen.
3. Organize Your Thoughts
After you’ve been an empathetic listener and aligned your non-verbal gestures with what you want to communicate, is important to organize your thoughts so every word that comes from you comes clearly and understandably.
Before we start talking to someone, we should always know what we want to achieve, and to do that is necessary that we put our ideas in order of importance and impact, we should always start with the most important point we have, remember that after some time most things lose the big impact they had at the beginning, and communication is not different.
Clearly communicating your thoughts will make your words powerful and easy to understand. In order to not undermine that power you should avoid being repetitive and preachy; most of the time your partner already know if what they’re doing is wrong and don’t need someone else making them feel worse, so unless they asked you for it, try to keep any unsolicited advice to yourself.
This will also help you to be considered as a non-judgmental, understanding person.
4. Don’t Leave Your Feelings Behind
If it ever occurred to you that communicating your feelings is a sign of weakness, it’s time for you to see it from a different perspective.
Our feelings have an impact, and that impact can be translated in the way we communicate, saying to your spouse you feel unimportant when they leave you out of important decisions not only explains the problem but the effect that the problem is having on you, helping you convey a stronger message than just arguments or complaints.
Every time you feel insecure about sharing your feelings while communicating, remember that as sentient beings, most humans experience all kinds of emotions and feelings on a daily basis during our entire life; so when you share your feelings, you are making your point have a profound impact while also making it more relatable to understand.
5. Make Sure You Understand, and You’re Being Understood
One of the main problems in communication is assumption. People tend to assume that after they communicated something, their message has been understood by the other party, what makes this matter worse is that sometimes the other party doesn’t ask any questions to clarify the doubts they may have.
A good way to make sure you understand the other person is to repeat what you understood from what they said, not repeating everything they said but what you understood, in that way they will add or correct if you missed something important. This will also help you be seen as an attentive, secure person who does their best effort to care about what someone else is trying to communicate. Remember, everyone likes to be understood, so they will probably be happy to help you understand.
On the other hand, to make sure you’ve been understood, you are the one who needs to ask the questions and make yourself open to clarify any doubts; just like we checked above, it’s always easier for people to approach you if you give them the sense of being approachable.
Making your communication effective and meaningful will improve your life and relationships of all kinds. Always keep in mind that healthy relationships have a profound effect on our lives, mental health, and overall happiness; doing what we can to achieve them is doing ourselves a service.