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February 10, 2014 Newsletter

The Top 5 Communication Skills to Practice and Possess

 

All relationships are based on communication, be they work relationships, or your relationships with friends and family or even your spouse. Communication can both drive people apart and bring them back together. In fact, poor communication is often listed as one of the greatest contributors to failed marriages. As we close in on Valentine’s Day, the best thing we can give to show our love and affection is a commitment to learning and practicing the art of communication. After the chocolates have been eaten, the flowers tossed, and the cards put away, communication will remain the single greatest thing we can contribute to our relationships to keep the love flowing all throughout the year.

1. Non-verbal Communication: Everything from body language to tone, posture, and eye contact figure into the message that you are conveying in a conversation. The ability to read these nonverbal cues can provide important insight into the feelings of others. For instance, if the other person is not looking at you or is leaning away from you, it may be because they are uncomfortable. Understanding these nonverbal cues can help you to direct a conversation in a manner that is more beneficial for all involved.

2. Clarity and Concision: Try to convey your message in as few words as possible. The fewer words you use, the lower the chance that your message will be confused by the audience. Make sure, however, that your point is explained thoroughly. In addition to mitigating the chance of confusion, exhibiting clarity and concision in your communication places a high value on the time of those receiving your message. Feeling valued makes for a more receptive audience.

3. Respect: Indicate that you respect the others involved in your communication. You can do this through active listening, reserving judgment, displaying empathy, and ensuring that communications are maintained through an appropriate venue (in person, a phone call, Facebook, text messaging, etc.) to the needs of those involved and the content of the communication.

4. Active Listening: This requires that you pay full attention to what the other person is saying, and that you seek clarification and understanding when you need it. It also requires that you filter in the non-verbal cues in a conversation and what you know about the person in order to come to greater understanding of their meaning. Active Listening is important because it allows the speaker to feel validated and it allows for mutual understanding in conversations.

5. Confidence: It is important to be confident in your communications with others. Confidence assures others that you believe in what you are saying and will follow through. Confidence can be conveyed through eye contact, posture, or tone of voice.

If you are having difficulty with communication in your relationships, please seek help from our professional counseling staff.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” –James 1:19

 

Learning to Listen

Active listening is a means of both listening and responding to another person in an effort to improve mutual understanding of all parties in a conversation. It involves more than merely hearing the words that are spoken. It involves being fully engaged and focused on the meaning that the speaker is attempting to convey. It requires you to block out distractions and to focus on all elements of the conversation, including the non-verbal ones.

To actively listen, you must enter into the conversation prepared to fully focus on the person who is speaking. Take steps to mitigate the potential for interruptions and remind yourself that you are entering this conversation so that you can come to a mutual understanding with the other person. It may also help to remember that this person is a child of God who is deserving of your time, your focus, and your respect.

 

While the other person is speaking, avoid formulating a response to what they are saying. Instead, make eye contact with the speaker, being sure to note any additional conversation being conveyed through their body language. Consider not only the words they are saying but also the meaning behind those words, making an attempt to empathize with their feeling, while taking into consideration what you know about the person outside of this conversation. To maintain focus and remember key points, you may find it useful to take notes. Do this only if it does not distract the speaker.

Do not interrupt the speaker. Instead, let them finish making whatever statement they are making. Only when they have completely finished speaking should you begin to respond with thoughtful and honest feedback.

When you do respond, focus on the speaker’s message while avoiding the addition of new ideas. Begin by restating the speakers message in your own words by saying something such as “So my understanding of what you just said is…is that correct?” Then follow that with questions to clarify anything you might not have understood. Repeat this process until you and the speaker are certain that the message was clearly understood. Only after this should you begin to formulate your own response.

Understand that active listening has nothing to do with conveying your own thoughts or feelings. It is a means of placing importance on your speaker and attempting to ensure that you understand the full meaning of whatever message they have for you. If you are finding it difficult to listen or communicate in your relationships, Advance Counseling offers a number of counseling services to help you learn these methods in greater depth.

 

Non-verbal Communication: The Conversation Behind the Conversation

Communication is important to the vitality and success of all relationships from those with coworkers, to those with friends to the relationship that you have with your spouse. The most important and often underrated part of communication occurs without the exchange of words. Non-verbal communication can solidify what is being said, create doubt or distrust, or convey deeper meanings behind words.

Non-verbal communication can be broken down as follows:

- Body Movements: Includes gestures, facial expressions, postures, head or hand movements, and full body movements. These serve a variety of purposes from representing a word (nodding to say “yes”), to illustrating an idea, displaying emotion, providing feedback, or even adapting (shifting to a more comfortable position or scratching an itch). Postures may be open or closed and can include behaviors of mirroring another in the communication.

- Eye Contact: This is both a method of providing and receiving feedback, but it is also a method of communicating with your partner that you would like them to speak. Eye contact may also communicate the type of relationship between communicants (friendship or disdain can affect pupil size).

- Para-language: This is the part of language that is not specifically the words. That is to say, it is the tone, pitch, volume and speed as well as the pauses used when speaking. These are generally indicative of the speaker’s feelings towards the topic they are discussing.

- Space: The amount of space you leave between yourself and the other person in a discussion can be indicative of your feelings towards that person and towards the amount of formality required by the subject matter. Culturally speaking, we have distances that are preferred for intimate situations, personal situations, social situations and public situations.

While non-verbal communication is not something that you can fake (you cannot control every expression, tone, gesture, etc. while in a conversation), it is something that we must be careful about. For instance, good eye contact can be viewed as confidence but if eye contact is continuous and unrelenting, it can make others uncomfortable and create unintentional problems. Someone who exhibits excessive eye contact may even be viewed as aggressive. Likewise, someone who is overly stressed may be inclined to exhibit this stress in their non-verbal communications. It will create tension with others around them and may make people less inclined to want to be around them.

We see these sorts of non-verbal miscommunications all the time and our counselors would be happy to help with your communication difficulties. Unfortunately these miscommunications can make things difficult in relationships. Therefore, it essential that we control our stress levels and maintain emotional awareness of both those we communicate with and of ourselves. This way, we will be intentionally communicating what we intend to communicate, and we will be able to more accurately receive the messages of others.

Once you are able to do this, it is important to pay attention to the inconsistencies in the verbal and non-verbal communication of others (and ask about it as needed). Look at non-verbal communication as a grouping of signals, not as individual communications, and trust your instincts on reading the non-verbal communications of others.

There is not one form of communication that gives the full story when it comes to working with others. In order to successfully communicate, however, it is essential that we come to a point of understanding what our non-verbal communications are saying to others but also, we must begin to understand the non-verbal communication styles of others. There is a full communication that comes behind the verbal communication in a conversation. Understanding this secondary story has the potential to enhance understanding in your day-to-day relationships and it simply cannot be ignored.

 

Teenagers: Communicating Love Despite the Frustration

 

Teenagers can be difficult to reach and frustrating to the parents who are trying to raise them to be not only independent and secure but also productive and stable members of society. They are faced with life-changing choices on a daily basis and subjected to immense and continual social and familial pressure, all while attempting to cope with their changing bodies, roles and responsibilities as they transition into adulthood. With this in mind, it is no wonder that having a teenager in the home can be frustrating.

Despite this, there are things that you can do as a parent to communicate your constant love to your teen, while mitigating some of the difficulties of raising them. The key is showing your love for them and displaying love within the household. Though your adolescent is attempting to become an independent adult, and may even look more like an adult as they physically mature, you must also realize that they still have many of the emotional needs of a child.

1. Show them unconditional love. When they have done something to upset you, keep a calm tone of voice when explaining where their actions were upsetting. Do not shame them. Explain why you are upset while giving some physical signal of your love (for example, place a hand on their shoulder as you communicate the issue and future expectations in the same circumstance). Do not end the conversation in hostility, but rather, attempt to end it with a hug. Much like children, a teenager’s primary means of understanding love is through action, not language. Be sure that, even when you show disapproval, you also show that you still love them.

2. Listen to them without condemning them or judging them. Earlier in this newsletter, we talked about active listening. This form of listening is important with all relationships but particularly with your teenager. Teens deal with peers who judge everything they do and never listen for their explanations, thoughts, or feelings. They need to feel this type of love and acceptance at home.

3. Show support. Though you may disagree with your teenager’s decisions, it is imperative that they understand that you will be there to support them when they need it. This is what helps them to grow into a competent and functional adult. It is also part of what allows them to feel loved. To take this one step further, pick your arguments in this area. Your teenager is developing a life beyond you. It should come as no surprise that they may begin to develop ideas and values that are different from yours. As long as these decisions are not destructive, allow them to express that individuality and independence and support them as they do.

4. Demonstrate what a loving relationship looks like. If you are married, you and your spouse should operate as a team, demonstrating respect and love for each other and cooperating to make decisions in the life of your family and particularly your teenager. If you are not married, demonstrate a loving relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or demonstrate it through other family members (a mom showing her teen love through her love for her mother should never be under-valued). If a teenager is unable to see a supportive, loving and cooperative relationship, it can be hard for them to have one (in any form, and that includes their relationship with you). Additionally, it is worth mentioning the importance of appropriate physical contact as a means of demonstrating love to your teenager (a hand on the shoulder when they are frustrated, a hug, etc).

5. Spend time with your teen. More than anything (and even if they are pushing you away), your teenager needs time with you. They need your undivided attention. It makes them feel more supported, but it can also open up the avenues of conversation even if they are resistant to speaking. Try to find some time each week to have one-on-one time with your teen. It can be tricky to figure out (particularly if you have more than one child, and especially if more than one of your children is a teenager), but this time allows for bonding and allows them to understand that they are important enough to you that you are willing to put everything aside for them.

Letting your teenager know that you love them may seem difficult, but a lot of it boils down to showing your love for them and your respect for the adult that they are becoming. With teenagers, words are often not enough. If you are struggling to communicate with your teenager, or you feel as though the messages are not being received, please contact the Advance Counseling staff. We would be happy to help you improve your communication skills during this difficult time period.

“…do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” - Ephesians 3:18-20

 

Bible Verses about Conversation

 

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” –Colossians 4:6

“My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry… If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” –James 1:19, 26

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” –Proverbs 17:27

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold....Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” –Ephesians 4:25-27, 29

 

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