A lot of people think they’re good at communicating (aka women), but the truth is they’re terrible (if I end up dead tomorrow you can assume a woman did it, so that cuts down the suspect list to about half the population). As this opening line points out, I’m pretty terrible at communicating. I want to think I’m great, but my wife is good at reminding me that… I have ‘room to grow’. My fun-est habit is my wife will say she doesn’t understand something I said, so I repeat myself almost exactly a second time but a bit slower and louder than the first time and expect she’ll get me this time. To me I make sense, so if she doesn’t get it, it must be hurt fault? Isn’t it? No. It takes two people to communicate: a giver and receiver. If the receiver isn’t getting it, the giver needs to change the approach. For instance, if you’re playing catch with someone and they keep dropping the ball, change things up; move closer, throw lighter, or give a bigger glove in order to try something to make it easier to catch. It’s the same in communicating. If it’s not getting the response we want, we need to change our approach.
Pretty much every couple who comes into see me for therapy says one of their goals is to improve communication. There are lots of little tricks that can help (e.g. find a way to show agreement before adjusting the idea to your belief; this helps the other person feel heard and keeps them open to hearing you. In improv games this is called ‘Yes and’). The following is a great foundation for testing how good you actually are at communicating and will give you an idea of the area(s) you need the most work. On a scale of 0-10, 10 being the best and 0 the worst, grade yourself for how well you do the following (you might need to divide home you vs. work you, or friend you vs. spouse you because we can be different in different situations):
- How well do you Listen? (Listening means not interrupting or multitasking, giving eye contact, asking questions to help clarify what’s being said, and showing you care.)
- How well do you Hear? (Hearing means you actually understand what’s being said with context, body language, and words without letting defensiveness, bias, and insecurities cloud what’s being heard. It means you focus on understanding the point of what’s being said and not necessarily the words.)
- How well do you Respond Appropriately? (Responding appropriately means the other person will feel safe to share again in the future because they didn’t feel attacked in anyway. It means you don’t get angry at the person, criticize, or demean him or her for sharing. It should also be void of bold accusations like ‘you always…’ and blame throwing like ‘this is all your fault’.)
- How well do you Share Appropriately? (Sharing appropriately is a challenge because there’s a line that separates sharing too little and sharing too much. Men tend to be more on the share too little side, which is natural because we aren’t as detail oriented. Women, on the other hand, tend to be on the share too much side, which is natural because their brains are typically better with details, but sometimes the details confuse the issue. People need to realize sharing too little or too much is a problem; neither is better than the other because they both lead to confusion and hurt. We need to aim to share enough, which is determined by both the speaker and listener)
- How well do you Prevent Giving a Reason to Attack? (Some people have a knack for saying something in a way that gets them attacked. If people attack us, there’s a good reason we did something to provoke it. We are doing something wrong even if that means being in a relationship with someone so volatile or we caused a lot of hurt in the past, which is adding to the current attack.)
- How well do you Not Play or Be the Victim? (If you share something, it’s incredibly annoying if the other person makes it all about them. If you’re the listener, it’s not about you. Whatever the emotion is, don’t just blame yourself or make it about you somehow. Listen to the person sharing and help that person feel cared about. That’s all the person sharing really wants. They want to feel validated and loved. Don’t start a self pity party or jump to defending yourself)
Answering these questions honestly and with the guidance of those close to you will be valuable for knowing how well others interpret how you communicate. Remember, we can think we’re great at communicating, but if the listener doesn’t think so, we’re not as great as we think. Communicating involves both the talker and listener. This week may you find ways to grow at communicating.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people