My journal flipped to a prayer I’d written earlier that year. “Lord, please help me become a better communicator.” I laughed out loud. I’d just poured my frustrations into my journal after another wearisome attempt to connect with my roommate. God’s answer to my prayer was not what I’d imagined.
My online dictionary says communication is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”
When I wrote my prayer, I envisioned instant connection and understanding. Instead of soft violin strings, I got clashing cymbals. She didn’t get me or seem to value my feelings. Far from the instant satisfaction I’d pictured, I realized becoming a better communicator takes effort—and patience.
Miscommunication happens, even in the best of families and relationships. We drop an innocent comment, and our spouse or child stiffens or withdraws. We react in kind. What just happened?
Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and ask, “What did you hear me say?” This provides an opportunity to clarify what we meant or didn’t mean or apologize.
Other times we need to ask ourselves what we heard that caused us to bristle at our loved one’s comment. Misinterpretation creates misunderstanding.
An interchange includes taking turns. If one person talks 90% of the time, you may want to try a more regimented approach when negotiating sticky topics so both feel heard and valued. I don’t remember the source of the speaker/listener technique below. But if you’re stuck, try it. Like learning a new dance, we must practice our steps so we don’t step on our partner’s toes.If one person talks 90% of the time, you may want to try a more regimented approach when negotiating sticky topics so both feel heard and valued. #communication, #kindness Click To Tweet
Some people find it helpful to hold an object. It can be something as simple as a pen or card. Some use a piece of carpet to acknowledge who has the floor. Only the one holding the “floor” can talk. That person can only share a few sentences at a time while the other intently listens. Then the speaker gives their partner the object signifying it’s their turn to speak.
The partner holding the floor relays what he heard. Limit exchanges to sound bites. Otherwise, the listener won’t be able to repeat back what was shared. After summarizing what they heard, they return the carpet.
Practice to Be a Better Communicator
Wife: “You’re so inconsiderate. You never call to say you’ll be late for dinner.” Wife hands object to husband.
Husband: You think I never call to tell you when I’m running late and view me as very inconsiderate.” He returns the object.
Wife: “Well, sometimes you call, but lately you seem to run late a lot. It frustrates me to plan to serve a hot meal and you show up late. Besides, I worry something has happened to you.”
Husband: “My being late shows disrespect for the time and effort you gave to serve me a hot meal. And it causes you to worry.”
Husband: “I’m very sorry. I didn’t realize how my running late affected you. Please forgive me. I’ll try to do better. Can I tell you what happened this last week that impacted my tardiness?”
Communication is an art and a skill that can be learned. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t flow with ease. Making the effort to articulate our thoughts and feelings says I trust you. Editing our words so as not to wear out the listener says I respect you.
Whether we need to practice listening or expressing ourselves, the effort is worth it. We grow in character and the one we’re with feels heard and valued. Stay tuned. Next week we’ll look at six more ways to beome a better communicator.