By Mark Webb
Communication is a very important part of our daily lives. The skills we use to communicate will greatly determine our level of personal happiness and fulfillment. Effective communication makes our lives work. It helps us make and keep friends. It helps us become successful within our work.
Sometimes, however, the role models we need to learn the proper skills for good communication are not available and problems may begin and persist without these skills. By modeling the basic techniques, we can teach future generations how to develop healthier relationships.
One of the biggest ways to turn persons off is through body language. Our nonverbal messages disclose much information about ourselves, our feelings and attitudes. By increasing awareness of our body language, we can convey to others our interests and likings which we in turn want to receive. We can do this by finding a close distance in which we can talk and interact comfortably and by maintaining eye contact which conveys sincerity, smiling, leaning forward when we speak, uncrossing arms and legs and allowing expressions to show.
Self disclosure is an important part of communication. It adds excitement and develops intimacy within our relationships because we are communicating information about ourselves. The risk of self disclosure will lead our relationships to the level of intimacy that we desire.
Some suggestions for this area:
– Practice sharing factual information about ourselves. When comfortable with this, move on to the next step.
– Share your thoughts, feelings and needs but only about the past or future, such as your beliefs, hopes or thoughts on the future.
– From here share your feelings and needs on a “here and now” basis. This will involve saying what attracts us to the other person, saying what we like and dislike about their behavior. This is the most difficult level of disclosure but also the most satisfying. When we risk sharing our true feelings we can become closer to others and create stronger bonds.
Other things to keep in mind when disclosing include:
– Preparing ahead of time on what we think, feel and want within our relationship.
– Being positive.
– Taking responsibility for our position by using “I” messages, such as ” I think”, “I want”, “I feel” and not using “You” messages such as “You always” or “You never”. This puts the other person on the defensive.
Listening is another important part of communication. It is our ability to listen that makes and keeps relationships going. When we show others that we are good listeners, they are drawn to us. By taking the time to listen we learn to understand others. Listening is a commitment to the understanding of how others see things. It is also a compliment to others because we are telling them we care. Listening however does not mean we have to sit still with our mouths shut. Listening involves active participation.
Helpful suggestions for healthy listening skills include:
– moving away from distractions.
– leaning forward.
– maintaining good eye contact.
– nodding and paraphrasing.
– asking questions.
– committing yourself to understanding the other person’s viewpoint.
The only way to learn these skills is by using them. It may feel awkward using these techniques at first but as we continue to work at them, they become second nature. The benefits we will gain from these skills will convince us that it is worth the initial discomfort.