Do you ever need to talk about something that is bothering you? Maybe you and your spouse got a little sideways. Or maybe your kid’s teacher sent a note that didn’t sit just right. Has something come up at the office that you knew you needed to have a second conversation about, but you are not looking forward to it?
You may think you are not as skilled as you could be when it comes to communication. I have great news for you! Communication is a learned skill. It’s something we work on, and we get better at it with practice. We are learning and over time, when we give ourselves to the process, we will improve.
Even if you are great at it, I think spending a little time this week focusing on these three elements of good communication will help you be an even better communicator. Here are three things that I have learned about communication over the years.
What’s the best time to talk?
Timing is literally everything when it comes to communication. Seriously. The timing of conversations makes all the difference. We can tend to be VERY quick to want to respond. It is never a good idea to respond when you are upset or when you are angry. For me, it’s never a good time for Mika to want to talk about things when I am watching sports on tv or right before bed. And I know when it’s not a good time to have a hard conversation with Mika based on her needs. Also, it’s ok to write things down to take a moment to breathe. When it comes to your kids, give them time to decompress when they come home from school or from practice. They may have had a hard day and they could be struggling. It’s better to give them a little space before you unleash all the questions or ask them to jump into a discussion about personal responsibilities and homework and chores and friends…you get the point, right?
Find time that works for you to share how you are doing. Ask the people you love when’s their best time to talk about hard things.
Who are you talking to?
Before you start your chat after you have picked the very best time to have the conversation-ask yourself, “who am I talking to?” You aren’t going to talk to your five-year-old like you are going to talk to your daughter’s teacher. Take a moment to think about the person you are talking to. Think about the words you are going to use….before you say them! You may have A LOT you want to share-you may have some very important points to share. But keep in mind that you don’t always have to be right, and it doesn’t all have to be about you.
Find time to think about a recent conversation you have had that may not have gone the way you wanted it to go. What’s something you would say differently next time?
Your Side of the Street
What are you going to do if nothing changes?
I had a counselor that asked me that question. We may think that the person on the other side of our conversation is the one that needs to change but the truth is, we can only control ourselves, our reactions, our word choices. We need to work our side of the street. We can improve the pieces of the conversations without expectations for the other person. This is why our mental wellness plays such a huge role in communication. The healthier we are, the healthier our conversations can be!
Find time to think about a conversation you need to have. Think about what you can do to keep your reactions and your words under control.
These may seem like three easy steps-simple to explain but a little more difficult to put into action. When you decide to put them into action, your communications skills will improve and so will your relationships.
The people you love are worth it.
Your mental health is worth it.
You are worth it.