Today my thoughts have been centered around communication and the vital role that it plays in every aspect of life. However, despite its crucial nature, I feel that so many people either undervalue it or simply don’t put in the effort required to make it effective.
If you want anything in life, you need to communicate that desire. When we are babies, we don’t shy away from screaming at the top of our lungs when we want food, comfort, or a diaper change. While tantrums are not the most sophisticated form of communication, they do get the point across rather effectively. As parents, we know that it can only be one of several things, and it’s a short process of trial and error before the ‘off’ button is magically found.
However, there are many people who dish out the equivalent of an child’s meltdown-screaming, silent treatments, insults-and a) they expect the individuals they are communicating with to go through the trial and error process in order to figure out what they want and b) they believe that this is an okay way to get their needs and desires across.
As adults, we need to be mature enough to admit to ourselves what we want and need, and kind enough to those around us to tell them those things in an effective manner. It is not fair to anyone, be it a spouse/partner, friend, family member, or business associate, to expect them to figure out what the heck you are wanting. No one should have to take on the role of Sherlock Holmes when it comes to their relationships.
So how exactly DO you communicate your feelings in an effective manner?
You need to decide first and foremost if they are feelings that actually need to be communicated. There have been several times where I get annoyed at something that someone has done and I feel like I should ‘clear the air’ or let that person know that such and such bothered me. However, if I sit on it for a bit, I am able to work through those feelings myself and avoid an unnecessary confrontation. If I had flown off the handle at the first feeling of irritation, the problem would have escalated rather than slipped silently into the abyss of “stuff that actually isn’t that important”.
If the feeling needs to be communicated, communicate it in the way that is most effective for you. For me, writing has always been how I express myself the best. In all of my relationships, the most productive conversations that I have had have started with me writing a note or an e-mail to that person. I’m not good at thinking on my feet, so taking the time to organize my thoughts in written form is extremely helpful in making sure I include everything I want to mention. In my most recent discussion, the other person responded with a voice recording because that is how HE communicates the best.
Don’t be afraid to be unconventional with how you communicate. The status quo of sitting down and hashing things out might work great for you and whoever you’re talking with—it also might cause things to escalate and completely backfire. Exchanging e-mails and voice recordings might seem weird, but for me, it works. Always go with what works for YOU.
If you are able to communicate what you need/want in a way that works for you, don’t forget to listen. Oftentimes we are so relieved to finally be able to express what has been bottled up that we completely forget that conversations are a give and take. You should want to know how the other person is feeling about what you say; perhaps there is something that you didn’t take into account, or something that they have neglected to transmit on their end.
At the end of the discussion, both parties should feel heard and feel good about the result. And if that consistently doesn’t happen, then either your communication skills need to be revamped or that relationship is simply not worth keeping. Many times people think that if there is an issue, it’s an automatic deal-breaker. For me, having issues does not discount the relationship; it’s the communication piece that reveals if it is a solid investment or not.
Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. This includes communicating the good AND the bad. If you only communicate the positive and sweep the negative under the rug, this is like living on a diet of sugar; it’s delicious, but not life-sustaining. However, if you only focus on the bad and leave out the good, that’s akin to being on starvation rations; eventually, that relationship will look as bad as a wanna-be Instagram model.
You need to be able to communicate productively with each and every person who is in your life. If you aren’t used to conveying things in a mature manner, it can take some getting used to, but once you gather the courage to approach it head-on, the results will speak for themselves.
Don’t go through your life stuck in teenage drama mode. Figure out how you really feel, own that truth, and be able to show that to others in a way that invites quid pro quo. Resist being sucked into immature exchanges. And most of all, embrace how you feel without discounting the perception that others hold. Be bold, be aware, and be open.