Have you ever felt like you were sharing with someone, and they were hearing you but not actually listening? Maybe you feel like conversations are an uphill battle that will end in a disagreement or misunderstanding.
Most of us can feel like we operate on different wavelengths than others and we can never really get our point across or feel seen by even the people closest to us. Maybe you feel like you cannot win, or what you say will be taken the wrong way. Perhaps you feel like you do not have a safe person to share and relate to. No matter what your experience is when it comes to communication with others, it can definitely be challenging at times, but there are solutions.
To begin strengthening our interpersonal effectiveness we can first identify our communication style and recognize that others communicate differently. Then examine ways to increase communication skills to receive and listen to others while also prioritizing our own voice and confidence.
Identify your communication style. We all have one or some combination of a communication style, but it most often boils down to four major ones.
- Passive Communication – Prioritize the needs and wants of others, sometimes at the expense of yourself. Avoid conflict or deny that you disagree.
- Aggressive Communication – Express that own needs, wants, and feelings are the priority. May dismiss and ignore others to gain control over them.
- Assertive Communication – Express needs, wants, and feelings directly and honestly while valuing others. Recognizing equal rights of expression, no one controls anyone else, and there is mutual self-respect.
- Passive-Aggressive Communication – Deny personal responsibility for own actions. Behavior may resemble a passive style with emphasis on getting your own way even after making commitments to others. Fear of being confronted.
By no means is this the complete definition of each of the communication styles but what is important to note is that while you may lean toward one, you can develop skills and implement tools to help you learn how to be a better communicator. At some level, we all have a natural way to communicate shaped by personal experience, family, and relationships. As we grow, we develop communication patterns sometimes out of a means of protection or defense. Recognizing your communicative sequence is a good starting place.
Next, work to increase active listening skills and effectively convey your point. When trying to vocalize our position, it is valuable to remember that people may not always understand what we are saying — but our goal is to be vocal about how something impacted us. We may not understand specific details/events that someone goes through, but we can understand is emotions and experiences such as anger, sadness, joy, happiness, etc. We may never “get” someone to understand our side of something, however, what we can do is build up our own ability to communicate our needs and wants, which signifies what is important to us and what we may desire going forward.
One tool to implement is “I” statements, often used in conflict resolution, “I” statements actively state what you need/want/believe/think. It allows us to take responsibility and identify what we need rather than pointing blame or accusing the other person.
You can even follow this rule of thumb. Start with the:
EX: I experienced this happen… which made me think this… I now feel this… and I would like… to change going forward.
Written by: Chardyce Kott, LSW