Mastering the art of communication is one that can seem only attainable by few. The art instructor who assigns, “Draw what you feel” may appeal to the right-brained, free spirit while provoking anxiety in the Type-A rule follower. On the other hand, the instructor who gives a paint-by-number assignment might be stifling to the creative independent but seen as a blessing to the left-brained logician. There is no set of instructions that will appeal to all learners, but here are a few skills to aid any willing pupil in attaining healthy communication skills.
· Practice “HALT-ing” – if you find that you are stuck in a “sinking ship” discussion, check-in to make sure neither or both parties are H-hungry, A-angry, L-late, or T-tired. If they are, ask for a timeout until those needs are met.
· Communicate more in person – behind a screen we are missing the nonverbal clues that research has shown to make up 93% of all communication. Shooting a text or email is great for supplemental communication but the most meaningful, intimate connections are made when the full humanity of the speaker and listener are present.
· Validate speaker – The common speaker-listener technique may seem too transactional but at its core it is proving that we often feel more loved and respected if we are listened to rather than simply given space to talk. Communicating what you heard back to the listener can sometimes be the most powerful thing you can do for a relationship.
· Speak from the “I” perspective – anyone who has experienced shame before can attest to feeling on guard or defensive when a speaker tells the listener either what he/she needs to do or how he/she makes them feel. Speaking for your own needs, desires and feelings, frees others up to listen and respond without pressure or insincere motive.
· Affirm whenever possible – Dr. Gottman’s research has shown that we need to have 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction. So whether you are more of a Picasso or Dan Robbins affirm and encourage others in your own unique, artistic way whenever possible. There’s no limit to the color and beauty you can add to another’s day.