“Communication is the fuel that keeps the fire of your relationship burning, without it, your relationship goes cold.” – Unknown
Effective communication requires:
- Active Listening
Poor communication is characterized by:
- Lack of patience
- Lack of understanding
- Lack of listening
- Records of right and wrong
Communication is the foundation of relationships. Communication is the means by which we develop and refine connections, express our emotions, ask our questions, and voice our concerns. Regardless of the context, communication enhances relationships; it is the catalyst to better, healthier interactions and connections with your spouse/significant other, family, friends, colleagues, and superiors.
Communication with Your Spouse/Significant Other
Aside from your relationship with Christ, your relationship with your spouse is the most valuable connection in life. It is an eternal bond, a binding covenant characterized by love, passion, patience, kindness, humility, honesty, vulnerability, truth, challenge, compromise, forgiveness, and grace. Poor communication, or complete lack thereof, compromises that bond and often result in animosity, tension, frustration, anger, selfishness, impatience, lack of appreciation, and distance.
Communication between you and your spouse will never be perfect – we’re human beings, we make mistakes. There will be disagreements and arguments, there will be times of struggle, and there will be times when you need space. There is NOTHING wrong with that. In fact, it’s completely NORMAL, and quite frankly, absolutely NECESSARY. If there were never any conflicts, disagreements, or miscommunication that would mean someone is not speaking their truth, someone is not being heard, and someone is going to react poorly in the future when he/she can no longer remain silent.
As my Dad loves to say, “Marriage is work!” Ash and I have discovered that his philosophy extends well beyond marriage. We worked hard while dating, during our engagement, and continue to work hard every single day as we await our wedding. Regardless if you’re “talking,” “hanging out,” dating, engaged, or married, you’ve got to be willing to put in the work if you want the relationships to last. Listen, speak up, hash things out, and move forward.
Communication with Family
Similar to communication with your spouse, communication with your family requires work, and often, it can be incredibly challenging. You’re equally, if not more comfortable, around your family as you are your spouse. Therefore, when you’re around family, you’re more likely to react versus respond. You don’t take the time to listen, reflect, and reply. Rather, you express your immediate, visceral reaction. We’re all guilty! It’s easy to take family for granted, it’s easy to become impatient, focus on their flaws, and disregard their opinions, but communication with your family should be a top priority. Your family is some of the most important people in your life; those relationships are precious and unique. You must learn to accept each other’s faults, embrace and commend each other’s strengths, and love one another unconditionally. You don’t need to be best friends with your family, but you should be willing to go above and beyond for them at all costs.
Communication with Friends
If you’re like me, you probably consider your closest friends to be family. Hell, your closest friends may even know you better than your family. Typically, it’s easy to communicate with friends and maintain relationships, especially when you’re in close proximity. However, as time progresses, things begin to change: careers, marriage, family, relocation, etc. As we advance in life, it becomes increasingly more difficult to maintain our friendships. Effort is the key to mending, maintaining, and strengthening those relationships. As your life evolves, the amount of effort required will increase significantly, but that is part of the process. You need to invest time, energy, and effort into your friendships. Reach out, catch-up, and reconnect with your friends. FaceTime, call, text, or even write. Schedule these things in your damn calendar if that’s what it takes! You need to make the time, you need to put in the effort, and you need to show that you care.
Communication with Colleagues
Whether you love your job, it’s a stepping-stone for the future, or you straight up hate it, there is something to be learned and there is value in the relationships that you develop in the workplace. Regardless of your profession, there learning never stops. The CEO can learn from the receptionist and vice versa, the manager can learn something from the accountant, and the 10-year seasoned veteran can learn something from the rookie. You need to adopt and embrace a growth mindset. Be willing to learn, embrace curiosity, and ask questions. Collaboration is always better than isolation. Take advantage of each other’s strengths and help one another target your weaknesses; build each other up. Surround yourself with people who are smarter, have more experience, and are more successful than you.
Communication with Superiors
Communicating with your superior(s) can be difficult, especially when she/she does not practice effective communication. Ideally, your superior(s) understand the value of communication; he/she prioritizes patience, empathy, active listening, humility, and vulnerability, understands that there is something to be learned from everyone, and recognizes that collaboration is essential to growth and success. Unfortunately, often that is not the case. Therefore, you’re left with two options: 1) leave that position and pursue other opportunities, 2) take the moral high road. Considering that many people are unable to leave their job, you’re probably limited to the second option. So, what does that look like? You need to kill them with kindness. Exemplify what it means to value communication, conduct yourself and perform in a way that’s impossible to ignore, and create so much value around communication that it becomes infectious. When you adopt that mindset and engage in that type of behavior, one of three things will happen: 1) nothing, 2) your superior will recognize, appreciate, and commend you for your efforts, and possibly even adopt similar beliefs and habits, 3) a greater opportunity will arise from your dedication, determination, and effort.
How to Start Improving Your Communication
So, what can you do to begin improving your communication skills?
The following are great starting points:
- Journaling to acknowledge and improve self-awareness
- Willingness to be vulnerable
- Embrace honesty and humility
- Take the time to RESPOND versus react
- Express your feelings – be heard
- Practice active and reflective listening
Are you ready to prioritize communication and enhance your relationships?