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Number of posts : 305
Age : 69
Registration date : 2007-10-04


How To Communicate More Effectively
By Sherry Obenauer

You're not listening to me! You never hear what I have to say! You never remember anything I tell you! All you ever do is yell! You never talk to me! Familiar? Most of us have said something of the sort on more than one occasion with little effect. A communication problem is often named the number-one reason for relationship endings. Yet the majority of people assume they know how to communicate effectively. Even though they have poor listening skills and often use manipulation, yelling, silence, threats, or blaming in order to try and be heard. However, all of us can learn effective communication regardless of age, if willing.

Most of us learn how to communicate based on modeling how our parents communicated with each other and with us. Unfortunately, many parents still believe that children should be "seen and not heard" or do not respect the feelings, opinions, and thoughts of children. Instead, parents are assumed to always "know better." Many parents tell their children to "shut up," ignore their children, or punish them for expressing themselves, instead of taking the time to sit and listen to what they have to say.

Further, if a child is raised in an abusive environment, verbal and sometimes physical violence is used as a means of "communicating" one's feelings. Calm respectful discussions are rarely witnessed and conflicts are seldom resolved. Such children often become adults who are either uncommunicative for fear of negative repercussions or are verbally abusive towards those close to them.

The impact this early treatment teaches us that what we have to say is unimportant or of lesser importance than what someone else has to say. It also teaches us that we are not allowed to voice (or even have) our feelings. It teaches us to disrespect others and to use power as a way of controlling a conversation. It teaches us that conversations are one-sided and that disagreements do not involve compromise or discussion. In total, much of our early experiences have taught us how to communicate ineffectively.

Regardless of our upbringing, all of us can learn healthier ways of communicating. However, this process takes time, patience, and perseverance. Remember, many of us have had at least 20 years of communicating in a certain way and learning new skills takes time. These skills can be used to communicate with anyone of any age regardless of the relationship you may have with the other person.

Statistics suggest that between 70-90% of what we communicate is nonverbal. It's not what you say, but how you say it that relates your true message. To get your message across nonverbally, it's important to maintain eye contact when listening and to vary the amount of eye contact when speaking. You should face the person being spoken with, nod every now and then to show understanding, and avoid fidgeting or walking away.

Facial expressions reflect how you're affected by the other person's message, however, avoid rolling your eyes, sneering, or shaking your head as these behaviors tend to shut the other person down. You should also maintain an open posture and avoid crossing your arms and legs, as this communicates a lack of openness and rigidity. Above all else, never interrupt the person speaking. Extend the person some respect by allowing him or her the time to deliver the full message. Interrupting suggests that you've been spending more time thinking of responses than listening.

Verbal communication accounts for about 25% of the message being sent. The most important aspect of verbal messaging is to ensure that what you express matches how you are expressing it. Telling someone you don't feel angry with clenched teeth and piercing eyes is inconsistent as is telling someone how much you love and appreciate him or her while yawning and staring at the television. Typically, how you say something relates your true feelings.

While speaking, talk loud enough to be heard while avoiding yelling, as this turns people off. Vary your pitch so as not to sound monotone, as this tends to lull others to sleep and shows a lack of emotional expression. When speaking with seniors, deepen your tone as we lose the ability to hear higher frequencies with age. If the message you wish to send is of great importance to you, make sure that distractions and interruptions are minimized (e.g., television, radio, phone, visitors, children, pets, et cetera). Make sure the person has your undivided attention.

In today's world, there never seems to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done. This is not a good excuse for poor communication habits. Time must be set aside each day to allow each person the opportunity to express him- or herself. Some families set aside time on the weekend for a family meeting to give each member of the family a chance to voice his or her concerns. Of course, communication isn't just about resolving problems; it's anything that you say good or bad.

When voicing your feelings, use "I feel" and not "you make me feel" statements as this sets up defensiveness in others. Take responsibility for your own feelings. If someone has done something that has hurt you, address the behaviors and not the person. For example, if you were hurt because your partner failed to do the dishes as promised, say "I feel hurt that you didn't wash the dishes" instead of "You are so insensitive and a jerk for not doing the dishes." Focus on the person's behavior; don't attack his or her character.

When addressing how you feel and the behavior that caused it, finish up by stating the effect the behavior had on you and what you would like to see change as a result of your discussion. It's unfair to tell someone what was done wrong without indicating what action you would like to see in the future. For example, "I felt hurt when you didn't wash the dishes because I trusted your word. It's important to me that you do what you say you will do. Could you make sure they're done next time or perhaps you have another idea?" By expressing your feelings, outlining the behavior you would like changed, and suggesting some alternate behavior keeps the communication lines open. Attacking someone's actions or being often falls on deaf ears.

Of course, there are times when healthy communication is ill- received. Most people, over time, will alter their interaction style to suit yours or chance the risk of losing the relationship. However, there are some people who refuse to accept responsibility for their hurtful or harmful behavior, refuse to listen, and choose to use insults, ignoring, or other destructive ways to communicate. In these cases, you must decide what is best for you. You may decide to end the relationship, avoid future interactions, or minimize contact. Or, you may need to learn to depersonalize what these people say and realize that how they act says more about them than it does about you.

Communication has both verbal and nonverbal components and is a very complex process. Communication is the basis for all relationships, yet many of us lack the skills necessary to communicate effectively. Like learning to ride a bike, learning how to listen and express yourself can be learned. Perhaps of greatest importance is learning how to listen. This is perhaps why we have two ears and only one mouth. Communication isn't just about you, it involves other people too. Being able to rephrase and summarize what someone else has said or remaining silent leads to great understanding.

Perhaps, we should be asking ourselves what we ask of others. I'm not listening to you. I never hear what you have to say. I never remember anything you tell me. All I ever do is yell. I never talk to you. We must change ourselves before we can expect others to. So, start communicating!

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