Updated: Mar 17
By: Shaila Anjum
I was giving advice the other day to a friend regarding relationships. Now, I am not some relationship guru or anything, BUT, one thing I have added to my communication mantra 101 is understanding. Such a basic concept, it seems, but let’s break it down in terms of communication. Some things you may want to understand before speaking are: Where was the person you were talking to coming from? What was their intention? Was it to deliberately hurt you? Was there more depth to their words? Did it come from a good place? Was there frustration behind their words?
Yes all these questions and MORE can be necessary to consider depending on the person and the conflict or communication. I’ll tell you what I told my friend:
First, decide whether the person means well or does not mean well. If you genuinely believe this person is trying to hurt you for some reason, you can try to communicate to understand the intentions better (the why), or you can make the decision to walk away from something that is not worth your while. If you decide they mean well, it’s important to apply effective communication. Dr. Segal and her team break down four skills of effective communication:
Dr. Segal and her team identify that we are often focused on what we want to get across, rather than listening (Robinson, Segal & Smith, 2019). Being an engaged listener does not only mean understanding where the other person is coming from, but also the underlying emotions, in other words, being an empathetic listener. Making that emotional connection allows your body to de-stress. One thing we often do that takes away from being an engaged listener is interrupting and redirecting the conversation to our own emotions and desires when really, we should be listening and mentioning our concerns when it’s our turn. I know, sometimes it feels like you will forget if you don’t say it now! Hint: Write it down!
Non-verbal signals are not just body language, breathing, posture and facial expression, but also tone of voice. We are all guilty of raising our voice when maybe we shouldn’t have. It’s these moments that make all the difference. In between the words, that eye roll or crossed arms make a big difference. Dr. Segal and her team point out that we must be careful how we deliver non-verbal signals and be mindful of how we receive non-verbal signals (Robinson, Segal & Smith, 2019). It’s important to keep in mind that there will be individual differences and there will be occasional slip-ups. What this means is to not focus too much on these signals, but look at them as a whole - from body language to tone and breathing.
Relieving Your Stress
It can be difficult to rationalize when you’re getting stressed in a heated conversation. Learning how to manage that stress can be very important and useful. Conditioning yourself to become consciously aware of situations that bring on stress. Quick breathing techniques or asking for a moment to formulate your thoughts can make all the difference. Dr. Segal and her team suggests finding humor in the conversation can be helpful to offset the stress (Robinson, Segal & Smith, 2019).
Assertiveness means to appropriately and respectfully express your thoughts and emotions while also being firm. Dr. Segal also mentions, this in no way means to be hostile or aggressive (Robinson, Segal & Smith, 2019). Valuing yourself is very important.
I think feedback is a good final addition to Dr. Segal and her team’s four pointers. Both receiving and giving feedback is important. This conversation is taking place for a reason. Has that been addressed, and are there future measures put into place if need be? Are the misunderstandings cleared, if any? Make sure you both understand why this conversation occurred, what each party wanted to gain from it, and if they have received what they had hoped. Receiving constructive criticism isn’t everyone's strength. However, it is a good skill to develop. Growth lies in understanding what could use improvement and graciously accepting it. Know when you make compromises and when to agree to disagree.
You may already be familiar with the communication memos stated above, however, reminders and pointers are always useful. Sometimes we know things on the surface, but forget to effectively apply them in our day to day lives. Until then, keep practicing and striving to be the best you!
Robinson L., Segal J., & Smith M. (2019). Effective communication. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/effective-communication.htm