“Good words are worth much, and cost little.”
– George Herbert.
In my last article we looked at the art of listening well or active listening. I hope you’ve been working on those skills. They are so important in all relationships.
However, how we speak and communicate to others is just as important as listening well. In general, successful people are good communicators.
If you can listen but can’t express yourself effectively…you’re going to continue to struggle with communication in your relationships.
Previously in my March article, we unpacked one of the two key predictors of successful relationships as laid out by John Gottman, PhD. To recap, “bids for attention” as defined by Gottman are any attempt from one partner to another for affirmation, affection or any other positive connection.
People who consistently answer each other’s bids for attention and do so in a positive and healthy manner, tend to have healthier and more vibrant relationships. Answering bids is an important key to being an active listener.
The second predictor of success in relationships as reported by Gottman is Kindness. Just being kind to those we are in a relationship with, especially when we are speaking to them, is another key component of communicating well.
Over and over again, I see people in relationships speaking poorly to each other. Their communication lacks respect and kindness. If you have found yourself speaking worse to your spouse or child than you ever would to a stranger on the street, that’s a problem.
Name-calling and insults NEVER foster effective communication.
Officers, do not talk to your spouse or children as if they are suspects on the street. Spouses, be mindful with how you approach and speak to your spouse who may have been barraged with disrespect throughout the day.
What are some ways you can more effectively communicate with others?
- Check your word use: Am I cursing? Name-calling? Using disrespect?
- Use “I” statements: “I need…”, “I feel…”
- Avoid accusatory or defensive statements: “You always….”; “I never…”
- Stay on topic. This is not the time to bring up every grievance or complaint you may have.
- Own what’s yours…if you messed up, own it. If you were rude, own it. And then sincerely apologize.
- Seek compromise: Most of the time, you can find a common ground with the person you are communicating with. Find some area you all can agree on and build from there.
- If it’s getting too heated, take a break and resume the conversation later, when everyone has calmed down.
You will not suddenly become a master communicator by reading this month’s article or March’s article, but keep at it…practicing these skills will only serve to improve your communication.
As always, we at Psychological Services (832-394-1440) are here to support you and your relationships. Reach out.