Fostering Effective Communication: An Introduction
“I never said that!” I start this blog today with one of the most common phrases I have heard in relationships, whether that is couples, parents and children, friends, or even sometimes with people at work. One of the biggest truths I’ve learned in my many years in the field of human services is this: it is very easy to be misunderstood and sometimes, very hard to understand others.
In this blog series, we’ll take a little look into communication methods, styles, and techniques you can use to better your overall communication. For the first several posts, we’ll start with the basics of communication. Some of this you may have heard before, but I feel it’s always important to build a strong foundation before going higher.
70% of communication is nonverbal. While many of us have heard this before, I have found this to be the single most important facet of communication. Before you think about what to say with your mind, your body is genetically designed to begin communicating (even as your tongue lags behind) how you feel about information you’ve just received. Where your eyes are looking can display interest or lack there of. A twitch of your nose could indicate disgust or (merely that you have allergies) maybe your having allergies. The other person then takes that (those non-verbal cues and interprets them) information and interpreted, often resulting in your message being told to them, long before you ever speak.
So, this begs the question, if people are hearing me say something before I even speak, how can I make sure my real message is getting heard? One technique I’ve encouraged in all my family therapy sessions over the years is this: take a second to breathe. Most assume that taking time to breathe is just useful when you’re upset, and while it’s true that taking deep breathes is one of the most universal coping skills out there, taking time to center yourself before speaking can go a long way in ensuring proper communication. As you take that breath, stop and feel how your body is. Are you out of breath, sick, upset, happy, or maybe even ambivalent? All of these states of being can impact what you present outwardly, and taking a moment to steady yourself before communicating, helps ensure you know (your physical presence) what is going on with your body before you start speaking. After all, if even you don’t know what your body is saying, how can you expect the person your talking with to know any better?
That’s all for today’s blog post. If your interested at all in the blog, keep checking back to see when the next post is made. In the meantime, if you are struggling with communication, make it a priority to take a deep breath and give yourself a good five seconds before talking this week. Practice this daily, and make note on whether or not it helps you to better communicate what you’re really wanting to say. I’ll be back to this blog later in the coming weeks after I’ve written some more on my EMDR and Understanding Your Child blog. Till then: breathe.
Joshua Nave LLMSW is a counselor/psychotherapist practicing at Health for Life Grand Rapids.