Whether you’re looking for better friendships, a business partnership or more depth in your intimate relationship, effective communication is what helps you understand other people, lets them understand you and creates stronger connections. If you’re looking for ways to develop your communication skills, here are a few areas where you could focus your attention.
Shutting out all distractions, making eye contact and focusing on the other person may sound easy when you’re happy and relaxed, but try doing it when you have a million things on your mind and it turns into a challenge. It takes a conscious effort to stop everything and listen to your kids, friends or partner, but the effort is well worth it. It makes the other person feel loved, important and understood (and it may take less time than you think).
In relationships clarity is often lacking when people are trying to communicate what they need. You don’t want to be a burden, you fear rejection or you believe that if others want to give you something, they will, anyway, out of their own good will. When they don’t, you feel neglected and eventually resentment builds up. But your partner, friends or children aren’t mind readers. Most likely, they’d happily give you what you want if they only knew what it was. Practice asking without attachment to the answer and you’ll be surprised how often people say ‘yes’.
You’ll have more productive conversations and more meaningful relationships, if you enter each interaction without expectations and without pre-conceived judgement. If you’ve already made your mind without considering the other person’s opinion, then your communication is not likely to achieve an outcome that both of you will be happy with.
A healthy relationship is one where you accept each other as you are without trying to change the other person. Show others that they may be different and you may disagree with their opinions, but you respect them and appreciate them just the way you are.
Empathy is the ability to recognise and share other people’s emotions. It makes all the skills I mentioned earlier easier to master – if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you intuitively know how to show that you’re there for them, you can see their point of view and you can easily accept who they are. While some people are naturally more gifted than others, empathy is a skill we can all learn by being mindful and curious about the people around us.
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