Communication seems to be something we only think about it when it is lacking, when we find that we wish we had better communication. The New Oxford American Dictionary says it is “the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings,” and even its example is in the context of bad communication: “There was a lack of communication between Pamela and her parents.” It seems that we only think of communication when it goes wrong.
Somehow built between the lines, intrinsic within the word, is the idea between successful and unsuccessful, good and back, adequate and lacking. One person can be a good communicator (expressing their ideas/feelings successfully), but if the other is not a good communicator (not able to express their ideas/feelings successfully), then there still isn’t good communication. Communication involves the impartation and absorption of material by both parties. This can be a tricky thing.
How do we become better communicators and receivers of information? Is it just innate in some people, or can it be learned? And can bad communication be unlearned?
We need to believe that every opportunity to communicate is an opportunity to better our communication. It simply comes down to practice. Don’t get depressed when it fails, or even if it explodes or gets wildly out of hand. It was a chance to improve, and improving almost always involves failing and failing forward, as John C. Maxwell puts it.
It is possible to learn to be better communicators. I used to be a terrible communicator, and I had to ask people for feedback about my communication. They’ve helped me out by giving honest responses and helpful tips. Getting your friends involved in helping you become a better communicator is the best way to start. Here are some things I’ve learned.
[SAY HI] Probably one of the most important things about communication that we neglect is simply the greeting. The welcome establishes trust and the feeling that what’s happening is going to be a good thing, that I’m feeling this, I’m vibing with this, this is my zone, and I belong here. It’s all in that one little word—hi.
The greeting establishes trust early and shows empathy. It flows from what you expect from the conversation. If you expect good things, you will create an environment for good things to happen. If you don’t expect good things, you will anticipate negative things and create an environment for distrust.
[BE HONEST] Honesty is the most important thing about communication is. It’s a hard thing to do for all of us because it means being vulnerable and also being confident of yourself. Sometimes you need to let the other person deal with the weight of what you need to say, without worrying about what they’ll think or how they’ll feel. Cut the round-about escape routes. Lose the voice-overs and excuses. Ditch the masking, analogies, similes and metaphors and speak plainly.
No one can teach you how to be honest. You just do it. And the more you do it, the more confident you become in being honest, and the more you’ll do it. Being honest will often mean getting negative results at first, but in the long run, it is your best bet. It will yield the desired fruit. Believe this and cling to it, especially when the going gets tough and communication seems to just break down.
[TAKE THE INITIATIVE] Good communicators always take the initiative. Bad communicators are passive. An aspiring good communicator must initially ask all the questions, or the hard questions. Sometimes you’ll need to probe, asking questions again or asking them in another way. You’ll need patience for this, but hang in there.
[PARTING WORDS] It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you communicate. Everyone has their own flow—some rap fast; some rap slow. (I should know—I’ve been ranked a 3 out of 10 in communication speed by my friends—that’s pretty slow). Each person’s speed of communication is unique to them, so don’t rush someone or slow someone down—let them just communicate.
The true test of whether or not you are a good communicator is if you pass on your good communication skills to others. If you communicate long enough with somebody, they will also become a better communicator.
Now that I’ve reminded myself of what it means to be a good communicator, I think I have some communicating to do. I’ve had a break down in communication the last few days. Excuse me while I go make a call …[Charlie Sim is a freelance writer residing in East Brunswick, N.J. He lives by the motto “to be in the world but not of it” and is currently working on a book entitled The Wonder & The Mystery.]
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