03 Aug How Do You Know You’re Communicating Effectively?
Everybody wants to be heard and acknowledged by the people around them, whether those people are their boss, their colleagues, their family, their friends, or their significant other. This is a basic cornerstone of the human experience—we crave connection with each other, and the way that we navigate that is through effective communication. But how can you tell whether or not the communication strategies you typically use are effective? How do you know when you have reached another person successfully, rather than simply talking at them? Here are a few ways you can gauge the effect your words have on those around you to see if you are communicating effectively.
Think of a Person Who Doesn’t Communicate Effectively
We all have a few of these people in our lives, and bless their hearts, they have no idea why they constantly rub people the wrong way and find their lives filled with conflict and disappointment. Once you have decided on a person in your life who is absolutely doing it wrong – effective communication, that is—figure out exactly what they’re doing wrong. Do they fail to listen or take other people into account before they open their mouths to express themselves? Do they constantly shy away from asserting their needs and ideas in a group setting or even one-on-one? Are they perpetually angry, seething with resentment but unwilling to explain exactly why this is? Think of what this person does that is such a turn off in situations where effective communication is called for. Then, turn yourself into that person. That’s right, pretend you are them. Try to see things from their point of view. Then make note of any similarities between their strategies of communicating and the ones you use yourself. There are probably more than a few – everyone has their issues, whether they overcome these issues in day to day communication or not. Chances are, the same things that bother you about this person are things that bother you about yourself as well.
Take a Personal Inventory of Your Communication Skills
Now that you have located a few of your own weak spots through empathizing with the less effective communicators in your life, think about how and why they came to be. Do you let your girlfriend or boyfriend win every argument because you fear they will leave you otherwise, yet secretly resent their power over you? Even if this keeps the peace in your relationship, it is not effective communication – they might be happy with this situation, but you aren’t. Every single thing that you are unhappy about is probably something that could be improved with more effective communication strategies. Your state of mind is your own responsibility, and you are as much to blame for your own unhappiness as those around you. If you’re like most people, you need to learn how to stick up for yourself more, and in the right proportions at the right times. Rather than seethe with anger behind your desk when your co-worker plays his or her music too loud, ask yourself why you haven’t requested that they turn it down. If you habitually feel dejected that your friends don’t call you much and you’re always the one making the plans, try telling them that you’d appreciate it if someone else planned something once in awhile and invited you. Keep in mind that not everyone is willing or able to accommodate your wishes at every turn. But you are much less likely to be unhappy because of someone else’s behavior if you clearly state your wishes at some point.
Gauge Others’ Reactions to You for More Effective Communication
Very few people go around in life hoping to make others angry, frustrated, hurt, sad, or disempowered. Yet many do, at some point, experience anger, frustration, hurt, sadness, and disempowerment. Understanding that this is not because someone else intended to cause harm goes a long way to improve communication skills. Once you realize that most interpersonal conflict is a result of a misunderstanding or poor communication, your job is to see that you do not create these misunderstandings with your own poor communication. So if you find that someone is constantly pissed off at you, chances are, you are not communicating effectively with that person. Likewise if you are prone to hurting others’ feelings or creating an atmosphere of hostility around yourself. If you’re one of those people who thinks that life sucks and you’re bound to lose, chances are that it is your own communication strategy that is malfunctioning rather than that of those around you. When assessing whether or not you are communicating effectively, look first to the results you create in the world around you. If you’re communicating effectively, things will be harmonious most of the time. If not, you might have some work to do in this area of your life.