Over the years, many people have come to me for help with their relationships. Time and time again, the core issues in their relationships revolve around poor communication. Here are 5 tips to make sure that you are communicating clearly and effectively with those important to you:
- Nail down your main points BEFORE you communicate!
When emotional topics are discussed, it is easy to lose track of the main idea that you are trying to communicate. It may come out all jumbled up, or hidden among less important points. To avoid this from happening during an intense conversation, do some pre-planning. Think about what it is that you want the other person to really understand. Make sure that you can say it clearly - in its simplest form.
- Examine and Identify Your UNDERLYING feelings.
If you feel angry about something in a relationship, it is easy to just say, "You're making me so Angry!" But usually anger is a symptom of a deeper emotion. For instance, one client complained that she often spent over an hour cooking dinner for her husband, and when it was ready, he would dilly dally for 20 minutes before coming to the table. She would tell him how angry she was about him behaving this way, but he didn't change his behavior and felt that she was nagging him. By examining her anger, we discovered that what she really felt was unappreciated. Once she could express this emotion to her husband, he finally understood and was able to change his actions.
- Express FEELINGS, not BLAME
Pointing fingers at the other person will only put him or her on the defensive. Now the conversation becomes a power struggle - and no one comes out the winner. A better way to communicate is to share how the other person's actions make you feel. Literally start these sentences with, "I feel". But be careful not to make an "I feel" statement into a blaming statement, as in "I feel mad when YOU always work late. A better way would be, "I feel lonely when I am home by myself every night." This encourages the other person to try to help you, instead of defending himself or herself.
- Face It: Your Face Matters
Ask any actor worth his salt - a lot can be expressed without saying a word! Make sure your facial expressions and body language match the mood and content of what you are trying to say. Eye contact is also very important. It shows that you are listening to the other person and that you want to connect with them.
- Minimize Distractions
This means: Put down your phone, turn off your computer, talk after the kids are asleep, turn off the TV, and do your best to focus on one another.