4 Steps for Effective Communication
Communication for Strong, Authentic Relationships & Emotional Health
Many of my clients tell me they have difficulty communicating effectively with friends, supervisors and significant others. The steps I have outlined below have proven very effective for my clients. Feel free to contact me if you have difficulty using them.
1. Own your Feelings. Prior to communicating, figure out how you are feeling and why, to the best of your ability. Feelings are confusing and complicated. Below are just a few reasons that step one may not be as easy as you’d think.
- Displaced feelings- We place feelings we have about one person/event on another person/event. For example, after receiving bad news from our boss we may be more sensitive to becoming upset with our spouse (and vice versa).
- Old feelings- Our past experiences and past emotional states act as colored lenses through which we “see” or experience the present. Often times our emotional reactions, or the intensity of our reactions, belong to the past. This is especially true when something in the present reminds us of a past experience.
- Other’s feelings- We confuse other’s feeling for our own. For example, after leaving a family member with a particularly angry or depressed mood, we may respond to life circumstances with greater anger or negativity. Even more difficult to recognize is when we have unknowingly confused other’s feelings for own long ago. Others feelings can then become what we believe to be our old feelings.
- We confuse defensive feelings like anger or frustration and vulnerable feelings like hurt and inadequacy. This occurs often and in both directions.
- We believe we are not justified to feel the way we do and dismiss them in the name of changing our perspective.
- We fear our feelings will be too painful and do what we can to ignore them.
2. Know your Boundaries. Since we are all unique with different goals, life experiences and current circumstances, we have very different needs. Do not expect others to know what your boundaries are or to set appropriate boundaries for you. Practice saying no! No hints or subtleties here. Be straight forward and blunt with yourself.
3. Practice Creating “I” statements. Once you have an understanding of how you are really feeling and what your boundaries are, put it together in a respectful way. Avoid the word “you” to own your feelings and present a solutions which clarifies your boundaries. Click here for worksheet and examples.
I would like/prefer_____________________________________________.”
4. Be Consistently Assertive. It can be challenging to own your feelings and even scary to share them with others. Passive and aggressive communication is harmful to families, relationships, friendships and business ventures. Saying anything that comes to mind without examining your feelings and owning them can create useless conflict and isolate you from others. However, once you explore your feelings do not wait for an emotionally intense situation to share them. When we don’t assert how we feel on a regular basis (perhaps in order to avoid conflict) we will feel and, ultimately will be, misunderstood. Holding back leads to resentments and usually an explosion at some point, whether that is pointed outward or inward will depend on your personality.
We cannot control how another communicates or how they react to our best attempts at consistent, assertive communication. While assertive communication will often improve relationships with family, friends, employers and peers, getting what “you want” is not what it is all about. Good communication is about understanding yourself, expressing yourself and doing the best you can to get your physical and emotional needs met while inspiring others around you to do the same.