Communication is a skill.

In the last couple days, communication has been an important part of my day.  Being able to communicate effectively with others is important, and very important in relationships.  There is an art to communicating so people can hear you.  When you talk so people can hear you, amazing things can happen.

I was at a local convenience store yesterday, getting a frozen Coke (I am addicted to them).  While I was there, the clerk was arguing with a customer about things the customer bought.  The clerk was rude and terrible, and the customer wasn’t much better, but their communication was way off.  Had the clerk stopped to really listen to what the customer was saying, or asking, he would have been able to handle the situation very differently.  The situation never have escalated to the point that it did, and they both could have left much less frustrated.

I work with people everyday, trying to help them communicate better with their spouses, partners, children, co-workers, and just the public in general.  Early in my career, I was trained in PREP.  Prep was a couples communication  program that helped couples learn how to talk so they could understand each other.  Just the idea of talking so people  can hear you is an important step in learning how to communicate effectively.

One of the key communication skills that the program talked about was making sure that the person felt heard before trying to make your point.  When talking with someone, report back what they said so the person understands that you heard them, paraphrase if you will.  Once they know they have been heard, make your point in a way that they can hear.  If you are calm, organized, and to the point, you will be heard.  If you are aggressive, using foul language, and/or threatening, you are likely to be met with the same, and get no where.

Many of the people that I see in therapy struggle with aggressive, angry behavior.  Trying to talk when you are angry is a bad idea.  If possible, take time to think about what you want to say, how you would like to say it, and the main idea.  Talking when you are angry generally means you say things without thinking and things get worse.  Remember that you may have to agree to disagree at times, but using foul language and threats isn’t communication.  It’s intimidation, and it’s not helpful.

I had to handle a rough situation myself recently.  I ran through multiple conversations in my head to get my thoughts organized before I had a conversation with someone close to me that needed to happen.  I needed to be able to advocate for myself.  I needed to stand up for myself, and make sure I could get my point across.  After a lot of tears, I was able to make my points, without being angry and without blaming.  I was able to be heard, and I was able to hear the other side.  There was a happiness to that I can be proud of for many years, and I didn’t feel like a doormate.

If you have problems with communication, and being heard, get support.  It’s not an easy skill, and it takes lots of practice, but it can lead to new and better things.  There are often classes in communities that can help with skills.  Might help not only with relationships, but can also help with your work life.  If communication is an issue for you, think about learning more.