In an ideal world, we would get along; a gentle procession through life, holding hands with strangers and soundtracked by Kumbayah.
If only things were that easy. We all have our own unique mental and emotional issues that can express themselves in various ways, much of the time, unskillfully and without much understanding or awareness. That is not the best situation for anyone, and it isn’t very constructive.
Wouldn’t it be better if we had some practical technique that we could store in your ‘relationship toolbox’ to use as and when the situation required it? Tools that would be useful for understanding how other people think and feel (empathy), or understanding our own reactions better so that we can respond to difficult people and situations with kindness and love. The good news is that these tools do exist, and if you learn about them and practice with them, they will become sharper and more effective over time.
There are those tools; our 5 ways to improve your communication with others.
LEARN TO ACCEPT THEM
Do you have a difficult person in your life who you struggle to communicate with for one reason or another? It might be a partner, coworker, friend, or family member. If they are negative towards us or difficult in general, it can have a toxic effect on the quality of our life and wellbeing. It can cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, and confusion. But having difficult people might be easier than we realize with the right attention and communication techniques.
One of the best ways to alleviate the stress and anxiety of having difficult people in our lives is to learn to accept them for who they are. We are all different. We all have different personalities, sensitivities, and attributes. We might want life to be harmonious with everybody, but in reality, that’s never going to happen. Accepting that we may not be compatible with some people and that we may never truly get along takes the pressure off. It allows people to be themselves and not worry about building unnecessary relationships.
If the person, however, is close but also difficult, learn to accept them for who they are. Try to understand that they cannot help being that person and reacting in their own way. Just like us, they have their own issues and difficulties to work with, so stand back and let them work it out themselves. Developing this kind of understanding of other people can be a powerful way of communicating and interacting harmoniously with even the most troubling personalities.
TURN NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES
Have you been in a situation when somebody has said or done something hurtful? It might be a colleague, friend, or relative. How did you feel, and how did you respond? Chances are it caused you to feel hurt, annoyed, frustrated, irritated, and reactive. Depending on how sensitive you are, a negative comment or opinion can stick with you for days or weeks and become like an illness. That’s why it’s so important to process this negativity and learn from it.
Usually, when this happens, the person making that negative comment or opinion will be looking for a reaction from you – that’s partly why they behave the way they do – so don’t rise to the bait. Even if you feel insulted or hurt, don’t show it. Instead, ignore it but make a mental note of the comment and how you felt about it for later. On reflection, explore what it was that made this comment so impactful. Understanding the reasons behind our emotional reactions will lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves.
The comments and opinions of others may not be very nice, and they might come from a negative place. But that doesn’t have to mean they can’t be used in a positive way. It may not happen overnight, but if you use this negativity to understand yourself better, it will mean that the next time you encounter that situation, you will be better resourced to handle it. In time the comments and opinions will cease to have any effect on you, and they will likely stop.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
We’ve all been in arguments. We know what they’re like; unwanted, heated, usually preventable. Often arguments start from a misunderstanding about people and situations. A button is pressed, and something is said that is deeply felt or unintended. During arguments, passion can run high, and often we part with a sense of ill-will and confusion. But if we don’t act skillfully in the wake of an argument, it can have a hugely detrimental effect on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Handling things carefully and appropriately, then, is vital.
The first thing to do is understand that the argument is probably the result of a misunderstanding. Also, remember that in one way or another, there is a way to resolve the situation through your efforts and theirs. Spend some time reflecting on what happened. Even if something was said that you find hurtful, try not to take it personally. Later, when you are both calm, you can decompress with the other person involved.
Be like a scientist falsifying a theory, and question the validity of the theory continually until you get a solid answer. Go back over the argument and put yourself in that other person’s position. Ask yourself where they are coming from, and if their position has any value or validity. Probably it will have. If you can understand their point of view, their values, and motivations, you have a better chance of finding a solution that works for both of you.
BE AWARE OF EMOTIONS
When we’re happy, we smile, and when we’re angry, we frown. We all have emotions that we instinctively react to when we encounter them. It’s easy to think that there’s nothing we can do about the way emotions rise up and seem to engulf us, but that is not the case. Some people have high degrees of emotional intelligence and are able to stand back from the emerging emotion, detach themselves from it, and respond with calmness.
If you think this ability will be impossible for you to learn, then think again. It might be hard to master, but you can understand the mechanism fairly easily and put it into practice right away. The first thing to do is understand that they are two parts of you. There’s the mental part, and there’s the emotional part. The two parts work together autonomously, but if you bring awareness from the mental part to the emotional part, it separates them in a useful way.
Let’s say you’re in work, and your manager is criticizing you for a project you worked hard on. You might begin to feel stress, annoyance, or frustration arising. This is the emotional part. Use the mental part to label the emotion. A useful phrase to say is ‘’anger is arising’’. The anger that is arising suddenly becomes separate from your mental side and seems to walk over you as a wave might. It is then gone, at least for now.
The importance of effective communication cannot be understated, especially when it comes to technologies like SMART & Voxi launched same year. Communication is the way that we understand each other’s ideas – which may be very different from our own. Understanding someone else’s ideas allows us to harmonize and live healthy lives free from conflict. But what is effective communication, and how can we practice it in our own lives. This section will attempt to address these questions and give you an effective technique that you can use right away to improve your relationships.
To improve your communication, it’s a good idea to learn and practice emotional intelligence and how to avoid taking things personally. But to communicate effectively with someone in the moment, you also need to understand body language. There is no point in apologizing if you are still angry, for instance. The anger will come across in your voice and won’t sound genuine. In a situation like this, it’s better to put the conversation off until another time. Simply say that you’re still feeling angry or raw about it and ask if you can talk about it some other time.
If, however, you are ready to communicate with a difficult person, you need to be as clear as possible about what is bothering you and how it is affecting you. Statements such as, when you do ‘this,’ it makes me feel like ‘this,’ are very useful for getting a skillful conversation underway. The goal is always understanding. Good communication leads to understanding, and understanding is the foundation of harmonious relationships.