I know they say that communication is key. But how many of us actually know that? Do we really understand that? Communication — true communication — can be awkward, unwelcome, and painful, even, but that’s the type of communication that is key. With every interpersonal relationship I’ve had — be it with a family member, a friend, or anyone else — I’ve come to realise that it’s the uncomfortable, but necessary, communication that is key. Even if it is agonising, it builds trust, strengthens relationships, and allows one to move forward in life knowing that they’re doing the best they can for the people in their lives. The thing about honest communication is that it’s difficult to carry out, but it’s honest. It indicates to the other party that you’re willing to make an effort, and it encourages them to do the same (hopefully).
On the flip side, though, I totally understand that even if one is willing to communicate well, they might find themselves at a crossroad as to how to really do that.
How to communicate better
Know what you’re going to say.
At times, when we’re getting into a serious, difficult conversation, we don’t think enough about how we want to approach a topic. Our emotions tend to take over when we talk about topics that are more personal; while that isn’t necessarily a downside, being overwhelmed with emotions may lead you to be short of words or points that you would have effectively wanted to bring forward in the conversation. Replaying the conversation in your mind may then leave you with some regrets — which isn’t the best feeling in the world. So, before a conversation that might be important to you and the other party, take the time to plan out (either mentally or physically, on your phone or paper) what you intend to say. It doesn’t have to be a whole essay or even an essay outline, but some basic pointers might make you more effective as a communicator.
Don’t shy away from mundane conversations.
When we start taking relationships for granted, mundane conversations can start to take the background. That’s when the issues set in. This doesn’t just apply for romantic relationships, but other types of relationships as well. When you can’t make the time to check in with your younger sibling, your relationship weakens. Instead of being someone they can confide in, they become reclusive. Even if you follow a friend on social media and know everything that’s going in their lives, taking the time to personally check in regularly lets them know that someone cares, and in turn, they care for you too.
Make sure you’re calm.
A tip that’s more relevant for heated conversations, ensure that you’re calm and relaxed during triggering conversations. Letting go of your inhibitions and having adrenaline take over may make you feel better in the immediate moment, and provide you with some sort of instant gratification, but often leads to more dissatisfaction, overall. Take a rain-check if you need to, and come back to it in 48 hours. Or, take deep breathes, adjust your posture, and think twice before you speak. Speak slowly, reevaluate your words before you let them leave you.
The most overstated tip, but also the most misunderstood. Listening is not just about taking in the words that you might be hearing. It’s about processing and letting the other party know that you’re trying to understand their point of view. Sometimes, conversations might leave us speechless; instead of responding with a generic reply, let them know that you really don’t know what to say, but that you’re there for them. Most people appreciate an honest reply more than one that they might have heard multiple times.
Make small talk.
Yeah, that’s right. Small talk is important. Small talk gives you important clues to understand the other person. It might indicate small factoids that might help you be a better partner or friend or child later on in life. It might indicate things that are important to the other person, and it might help your friend, partner, or parent to figure you out better too. Small talk might seem like a redundant chore to some, but it goes a long way in establishing relationships and understanding others better.
Conversing can be difficult. For those who like to keep private, and are highly compartmentalised, baring emotions and honest conversations can make one feel almost naked. Walls of silence and minimal real conversations are built around them like a barrier. Still, try. There could be friction and embarrassment at the start, but as the kids say: you only live once. I’d like to think that feeling excessively embarrassed is akin to wasting time. If you’re trying your best, what’s there to be embarrassed about?