Lately, I have found that I’m talking a lot about communication. No matter what issue a client is coming in for, we end up touching upon communication in some way. Whether it’s expressing emotions, being more assertive or setting boundaries; I think we can all benefit from taking a look at our communication style. Check out these tips for improving communication.
Ditch the Technology
Maybe it's an occupational hazard, but I will always opt for face-to-face communication whenever possible. I have anxious young adults who struggle to make a phone call because they feel much more comfortable sending an email, and I can’t tell you how many clients tell me about a conflict and then proceed to take out their cell phones to read me a text conversation. Sure, a text message or e-mail is convenient and is great for sending a quick message, but too often we rely on this as our only mode of communication. So much is lost and misinterpreted, we don’t get to have eye contact, to read body language, or convey our tone of voice. We often make assumptions or take things personally. We might even say things we don’t mean or would never say to someone’s face. Challenge yourself to have more authentic connections by talking things out in person.
Your Cell Phone is not an Appendage
I was slightly horrified when I realized my 9 month old is obsessed with my iPhone. He sees me on it and I’m always taking pictures with it, so its no surprise that he’s curious. I love that we can FaceTime family who we don’t see as often and that I can share his photos. In those ways it helps keep us connected, but this really got me to thinking about how the phone can limit my ability to really be connected when we are having family time. My solution? Implementing phone-free time. Try things like no phone at the dinner table, leave it to charge in another room, or setting it to do not disturb at a certain time.
I Language, not you language
I know how cliché it sounds for a therapist to tell you to say “I feel…” but using ‘I’ statements can be a potent de-escalator when dealing with conflict. ‘You’ language tends to be blaming and makes the recipient feel defensive. The ‘I’ statement, on the other hand, allows the recipient to see the impact of their actions or behavior. An ‘I’ statement is assertive, giving the passive person a tool to express themselves while giving the more aggressive style a way to remain calm and neutral. I always suggest practicing this strategy in everyday use, that way you can master it so you feel ready to use it when emotion is high.
When in doubt, wait it out
All to often we respond first and think later. This impulsive communication allows for all sorts of emotion to come through, so rather than a well thought out and meaningful response the intended message is lost. When you find yourself quick to reply, pause, and take a moment to reflect. Can you give it some thought and revisit this? Do you need to cool down before responding? Is this the message you want to convey? One tool I have used, is to write out an email and save it as a draft. When I revisited it sometimes it was just fine, but other times I realized how defensive I sounded. With some time and space from the original email I would be able to write a response that was much more objective. Another strategy is to respond to a friend or partner by saying, I’d like to talk about this but need some time to collect my thoughts can we revisit it? Then set a specific time that you agree upon. No matter how you approach it know it's ok to take a time out!