Good communication is critical to virtually every interaction we have, yet we hardly stop to think about it. That great umbrella word -- communication-- deserves a little more respect. It's not just the words we use, but how we use them. It's written, it's oral. It's tone of voice, it's our body language. It's the obvious, it's nuance. It drives relationships with others, and is an important example to our kids. And it could use a little more attention.
The next time you need to communicate with someone, whether it's your partner, your parent, your child, or your friend, take a moment to think about how you are communicating. Are you asking for something? Trying to talk about an important issue? Are the words you are using the right ones? Is your tone of voice appropriate to the topic? Does your body language support what you are trying to say?
When talking with your partner, the voice you use when you say, "I love you," makes a difference. The words you use and your body language when talking with a friend about a serious issue makes a difference in how your friend perceives the issue. Telling your child exactly what needs to happen before bedtime may not necessarily make sure those thing will happen, but it will make your expectations clear.
Sarcasm, understatement, and subtlety are all methods of communication that have their place - but are often overused. Using these methods requires that the person on the other side of the communication understands that they are in use, and you can't always be sure of that. Any given situation may or may not be appropriate for this kind of communication, and you need to be absolutely sure before using them or you might just fall right back into one of those miscommunication situations again.
Thing is, you need to have a grasp of communication basics before those communication methods can be understood and/or used most effectively. Both you AND the person you are speaking with need to understand the basics - and that's not always something you can be sure of. In addition, sarcasm, understatement, and subtlety just plain aren't appropriate in many formal communication situations.
It's so simple a statement that it seems like it should go without saying - but so many of us can use the reminder. "Say what you mean and mean what you say." Be honest, direct, and open in your efforts to communicate with those around you. And communicate with others exactly how you would want them to communicate with you.
As parents, everything we do is an example to our children. It's a daunting thought, but absolutely doable in practice. In our heavily connected world, communication is becoming more and more important. Show your kids how to communicate clearly and effectively by making sure you are doing just that.
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