Kate McLisky is a clinical psychologist with a background in mental health research. Kate works clinically with an integrative therapeutic approach to help clients of all ages to manage and reduce symptoms of mental health disorders.
I think we can all agree communication is hard. Whether you’re stuck having the same argument with a partner, feeling unheard by a friend or not asserting yourself at work, these communication ninja tools will help you to enter the fray feeling prepared!
Pick your timing
One of the biggest problems people have with communication in relationships is that they tend to only communicate their true thoughts and feelings when things are at ABSOLUTE BOILING POINT and suddenly you can’t control THE VOLUME OF YOUR VOICE. Emotions get in the way, the other person feels afraid, attacked or angry in response and very soon any point you tried to make is completely lost. Important conversations, especially those that bring up big feelings, are best done when things are calm. You’ll both be in a better state of mind to express your feelings and respond.
What do you want?
It’s very common for people to enter into a conversation with a firm idea of the problem, but no real concept of the solution. What is it that you’re asking for? It might be for a change in behaviour, to provide something or simply to show that they understand your point of view. Take some time to work out the objective of the conversation, and then make sure that you say it. It’s not enough to simply state your feelings about a situation and expect that the other person will know what you want. You need to tell them!
Often when we begin a conversation, we make the mistake of making assumptions, or judgments, about the other person’s intentions, feelings or perspective. For example, if your friend or partner hasn’t asked you about something important to you, it might appear that they don’t care. Beginning a conversation with, “Obviously you don’t care about [very important thing]”, is going to end badly. As soon as they feel judged, they will be on the defensive, or on the attack, and an effective two-sided conversation is out the window. Also, it’s likely that they do care, but something else has distracted them.
Try describing their behaviour instead, and then telling them how you feel. You might say, “you haven’t asked me about [very important thing], I’ve been feeling like you don’t care.” This is a much more helpful beginning to a conversation, and gives them the opportunity to explain themselves and respond to your feelings, rather than simply defending themselves.
Stay on track
It’s very easy to get distracted by other issues in your relationship during a conversation. You might start by saying that you’ve noticed that your friend has been ignoring your text messages, and that it’s made you feel insecure. But what if your friend responds with, “Well you never pick up my calls!”?
If you get taken down other paths during the conversation, you end up miles away from your initial objective. Try acknowledging their concern and telling them that you’ll come back to it later, then redirecting back to your initial point. For example, “that’s true, I have missed some of your calls. Let’s talk about that in a minute. Could we just come back to the text message thing for a moment, though?” This tool is a GAME CHANGER.
These are just a few pointers to get you started, but trying even a few is likely to have a huge impact on how acknowledged and validated you feel in your relationships. If they don’t respond the way you’d like, that’s ok! Remind yourself that you’ve expressed yourself with care and respect. This is always a win. If someone isn't able to meet your needs, this is important communication from them, and you can decide how to respond in accordance with your values.
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Article written by: Kate McLisky
Image credit: Bewakoof.com Official at Unsplash
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.