#Askingforafriend: Tips to improve communication

By Kristan Farley
Office of Student Care
#Askingforafriend

How do I communicate in a relationship with others?

Did you know the goal of communication is connection? For a conversation to help us improve our relationship with others, we first have to start with ourselves. It is our responsibility to manage our own thoughts, feelings and needs before, during and after we engage in a conversation. Often, when our emotions are high, we say things we do not mean or we try to talk a person into changing, doing what we want, agreeing with us or making us feel better. Those types of conversations usually are high in conflict and low on productivity. Before having a conversation with someone else, it is helpful to get to know what’s going on inside first:

  • What am I feeling? Example: Anger, pain, fear, shame, guilt, love, joy passion
  • What am I thinking? Example:  I am not enough, I am not important to you or I am dumb. Thoughts are not always true, and we might need to find thoughts that are more helpful. Example: Even though that hurt me, it does not mean I am not important.
  • What do I want or need? Example: I need a hug, I want to spend more time with you, I need someone to listen, or I want some encouragement.

Now that I know what is going on inside, I will do a much better job of communicating for connection.  Here are some tips to having better communication with others: 

  • Avoid starting the sentence with YOU followed by an accusation or judgment, as this will just put the other person in a defensive position. Examples: You are mean or You always make me feel..
  • Avoid naming, shaming, blaming or assuming! Do not call people names, say things that make them feel less than, blame them for how you feel, assume you know what going on for them or assign motives to their words.
  • Seek to understand before being understood. Example: “What do you mean by that?” or “Tell me more.”
  • Make sure what you are saying is helping you reach your goal of connection.
  • Affirmation goes a long way. Example: “Because you are important to me, I want to try to talk to you about…”

Communication can be difficult. If you take time to process your own experience, you will do a better job of connecting. If a conversation does escalate, ask to take a break to help you gather your thoughts and set a time to try again.

We really do need each other, and while relationships can be challenging, healthy conflict can increase our connection. Be aware that not everyone is capable of having a healthy conversation and, instead you may have to set a boundary to protect yourself. But, with a good friend who can agree to healthy boundaries, take a risk trying to connect through conversation!

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Bible Verse

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/