Communication is a big factor in all relationships–friendship, teammate, parent, partner–because, really, it’s how we connect with others. And that’s why we are here on this earth: to connect with others. To be seen, heard and understood. Communication is the vehicle that allows us to connect to the world around us. When that connection is missed due to poor road trips, it can be unbelievably hard.
Often the communication route gets sidetracked on is this well-known-alley called, miscommunication.
(We can all think of a time where an issue wasn’t even an issue until it was misunderstood–am-I-right?)
It’s so common to have conflicts become more tangled, lost and upsetting by missing the communication turn off.
Alas, it happens to all of us, all the time–ourselves included.
So, we thought we’d compile just a few of our favorite communication tips to help us all step up our communication game.
(This makes everything easier–trust us.)
Here’s a list we’ve compiled that we like to think of as a solid starting point:
“I” Statements, Without Absolutes
This is a big one. It’s so easy, when having hard conversations, to have our phrases begin and center around, “You.” often paired with absolute statements like, “Never” and “Always”.
“YOU always make the mistakes.”
“Why don’t YOU know this already?”
“YOU always embarrass me!”
“Uh, hello? YOU say that every time, not me.”
“YOU never decide, that’s why we’re in this mess.”
And as we’re sure you notice it when it’s typed out like that, it doesn’t come across well, does it?
A better choice is to use “I” statements and no absolute terms. Here’s what they would look like:
“I feel that mistake happens often.”
“I think the answer isn’t clear in this situation yet.”
“I felt embarrassed when that happened.”
“I feel like I don’t say that all the time, but sometimes I hear it from you.”
“I think I would like a decision on what to do right now, that would be helpful.”
See where we’re going? It’s much more approachable, doesn’t convey blame, allows the other person to respond (rather than defend), and gets our feelings and thoughts across without painting it in absolute terms.
The whole truth and nothing but the truth–so help me.
This is so straightforward, common sense, and logical. BUT it needs to be said.
When communicating through a conflict, expressing your needs, etc., be honest with your entire truth. It doesn’t do anyone a service by being untruthful or incomplete when voicing your side. Owning our whole truth and expressing that in full to our partners ensures that they have all the information they need to respond.
If things are missed, left out, or fudged, it’s always going to end poorly with one side being dissatisfied, misunderstood, and unheard.
Not the tasty kind. The “Good – Bad – Good” way of bringing about critiques and concerns.
Sandwiching our negative feedback with good on either end, is a way to soften that blow and convey our intentions of constructive feedback rather than criticism. It’s much more pleasant to receive and can be a great tool to use which eases those defensive tendencies.
“I love how you did the dishes for me today without having been asked. Next time, it would be more helpful if you could put them away, too. I really notice your efforts in helping out around the house and it’s much appreciated.“
Good – Bad – Good
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
The age old cliche, has never been so true.
This tip is super helpful in making sure our intentions are clear, but it’s also helpful in determining how our partners are receiving it.
Non-Verbal Cues are things like tone, inflection, body language, volume, etc. Some easy examples to check in on:
Crossed arms, eye contact, open palms, soft tones, even inflection, mild volume, facial expressions, and breathing patterns.
Put away the devices and distractions.
Just like driving, these things are a bad idea when it comes to communication.
Having uninterrupted face-to-face conversation with your partner shows respect to the matters at hand and validation of their importance to you and your relationship.
When we have our phones beeping and buzzing, subtly trying to watch TV around their face, or laptops shining at us, it becomes very difficult to hear our partners or be heard in return. No one likes that. No one.
Put those distractions away and focus your attention on the conversation to limit the chances of missing what’s being said and reducing coming across like a jerk who doesn’t care.
Alright, that’s it. Our simple, starter kit of communication tips. How to start navigating the alleyways of miscommunication as a team. We hope you’ve found this helpful! If you’d like to dig around more on the subject, we’ve got our online course Communication 101 launching in February! Head over to where we hang out most at our website (www.relationshipproject.org) or on Instagram (@relationshipproject) to see more about the course and say, “Hi!”. Tell us, what’s YOUR fav communication tip? We’d love to know.
— Jake and Tay