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Strategies to become a better communicator

May 12, 2016 | Rachel Velishek, LPCC


become-better-communicator-patients.jpgOkay, let’s be honest. Simply having the ability to talk to someone does not make an individual an effective communicator- similar to hearing does not make an individual a good listener.

Actually an individual is considered a good communicator if they are indeed a good listener. It requires a person to be mindful of their words and tone, and to interpret another person’s tone cautiously.

A good communicator puts forth the effort to ask questions to gain a deeper understanding, rather than defend explanation. A good listener will make a choice to incorporate emotions to the words.

In order to become a better communicator I recommend the following:

  1. Take ownership of your reactions: You are the only one responsible for your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. You have the choice on how you respond to situations. You may not love your options, but you will always have a choice. As individuals, we can choose how to explain, defend, debate, nag, or antagonize or we can choose not to do it.
  2. Ask questions: Asking questions will help you gain a deeper understanding of the situation. Consider the other persons feelings. What is the worst case scenario? What is it that you are trying to achieve? I truly believe all behavior has a motive and will ask my patients frequently “What is or was your motive?”
  3. Agree with feelings, not with facts: Now I know in previous articles I suggested to stick with facts (what you can prove without a doubt), but in this case to improve communication I am asking you to consider another person’s feelings. I often say “your opinion is not wrong, it is your thought… facts can be proven, opinions should be respected”. You do not have to agree with the other persons “facts.” You can however agree with how they feel, and communicate that you have indeed heard them. It is important to remember that feelings are neither right or wrong; it is what we do with them, our own response that’s right or wrong,”
  4. Set Limits: Boundaries—It is always easier to start with firm boundaries than to try to initiate them later. Maintain those boundaries, especially when your talk starts to escalate into an argument, and the problems are not being resolved. Arguing will only make the problem worst, and it does not get you heard. Instead I recommend you set limits with the following phrases “you may have a point” or “ I never thought of it that way.”
  5. Be precise with your own words: Refer away from “always” or “never.” Those words are commonly linked with exceptions. It is important you take time to clarify if the words are figurative or feeling words. I recommend you try and say something similar to “ it feels like…” versus “ you never,” or you always.” When we take time to add ‘feels like,’ we focus on our feelings, we are being clearer and more likely to be heard and understood.