We use communication on a daily basis to interact with others and it comes in many forms. We couldn’t survive without it, but few of us really know how to use it effectively. Fewer of us are probably even aware of that fact. Communication is a learned skill. Therefore until we become aware of the way we use our words and our motives for choosing those words, we go with what we know. Quite often we’re left wondering why the conversation didn’t go so well!
Emotions in general, ego and fear play a big role in our communication delivery. Being human, the influence of these three factors is difficult to overcome. This is especially true when we are hurt, angry or upset. Our faulty thinking becomes detrimental to ourselves and our conversations.
How many times have you said you’re ‘fine’, when you’re actually not? Someone told me long ago that ‘fine’ actually means ‘fucked up, insecure, neurotic and emotional’. Now think back again to the times you said you were fine. Does that meaning make you smile because that’s a bit of how you really felt? …why yes it does! And did that ever fulfill your need/s? …why no! And thank you for asking. Not surprisingly as none of us are mind readers. Being silent about our needs and verbal about our dissatisfaction can only cause discord in our relationships.
The definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing expecting a different result. We’re all mad then – or at least have bouts of insanity along the way, until we change our unproductive ways of communicating.
We get better results if we can converse calmly and clearly, without blame, and while owning our own role. This holds true no matter who we are talking with. If we can teach our kids these skills they’ll have a head start in this big world from the get go.
I’ve learnt some invaluable skills over the last few years which I use with Jessie. They have helped reduce friction and misunderstanding, and have allowed for us both to be heard, which is what we are all wanting. I want to expand that and have those skills as part of my default method of interaction. Raw emotion and fear need to take a back seat to emotional intelligence for me to achieve this. Gulp.
As with learning any new skill, it takes practice and effort. I have a template on my computer that I use with Jessie. It’s helping me express myself positively, and hopefully teaching Jessie the same. The prompts are;
I feel/felt… e.g. embarrassed
when… e.g. you yelled and swore at me
because… e.g. my friend felt uncomfortable and left
and I would like… e.g. for you to have said ‘mum, I need you for a moment.’
It can be re-written until you are satisfied the wording is calm, non- confrontational, and clear.
Another one to remember, particularly useful when talking with our kids, is to use the word ‘and’, instead of ‘but’. For example, ‘I hear that you’re upset and you still need to get your jobs done.’ If ‘and’ is replaced with ‘but’, any recognition given is instantly taken back. Tying in, a saying I heard recently was “anything after but is bullshit.” Such a simple thing can be the difference between lighting the fuse or diffusing a potential bomb.
Listening without agenda is a learned skill as well. Also a vital part of peaceful communication. Repeating back what you have heard allows for clarification of any misunderstandings. Most importantly it shows you want to understand and you respect the other’s point of view, even if you don’t agree.
My goal is to achieve proficiency in these skills. It starts with thinking before I speak and listening with a quiet mind.
10% of conflict is due to difference of opinion and 90% is due to delivery and tone of voice.