You’re tired. You walk into your favorite coffee shop, place what you think is your usual order, and wait. When they call your name, you take a sip, and you realize it’s not what you ordered at all. You ask the barista, who of course, apologizes and offers to make you a new one. This adds more time to what should have been a quick errand, and now you have to rush to get to work on time.
Not only are you annoyed, but now you’re overthinking; what should you have said to make yourself heard the first time? Communicating, and doing so clearly, is tough; much more so if you suffer from anxiety. (If you’re an introverted extrovert and suffer from anxiety, let’s become best friends because you are basically me.) If you’re reading this, then you have probably felt the same.
I’ve been having some trouble handling some things lately. Life happens, of course, but there are some events or possibilities of events that are a bit more stressful than others. I suffer from panic attacks (though they do not define me), and there are signs that I’m getting close to one.
A dear friend of mine called me the other night after I detailed that to him over text. I was touched, as I was not expecting the call. Even though I broke down to him over the phone, it helped. I had to work through some of the sludge to make things clearer and better to handle; talking to someone helps with the anxiety portion.
Thinking about it a few days later, and I recognized that he asked some questions that I couldn’t clearly answer. I babbled some things in the midst of my near-hysteria, but I was then honest with him: I could not think clearly at that point in time. And thinking clearly, my friends, is a key part of communicating clearly.
The question then becomes: how do we make sure we’re thinking clearly? It seems like common sense, but have you really thought about it?
Again, seems obvious, right? But we often don’t practice what we preach. We’re going a mile a minute, and our thoughts and words often come out the same way. Do you remember dial-up Internet? (If you don’t, you’re very lucky.) Do you remember having to sit there for a solid 5 minutes for the Internet to connect? Once you were on the Internet, you probably savored the time you had on there, right? You thought about where you were going, how you were using it, and what you wanted to get out of that session – because you weren’t sure if you were going to get another session that week, with your older brother taking it over all the time.
That’s what we have to emulate when we communicate with others. Think about how you want the other person to feel during and after your interaction. Think about what you want to get out of the discourse. When you walk into a conversation, pause for a second and think about the point you need to get across to that person. It could be as simple as ordering at the coffee shop, or it could be more complicated, like dealing with a difficult co-worker or client.
Avoid Using “You” Statements
We are very tempted, as people, (because it makes us feel better and resolves a situation quickly in our heads) to use “you” statements when talking with someone. While not necessarily a mistake, it can be detrimental to effective communication. For example, this statement will likely not win you the goodwill of many:
“You’re an idiot. Why were you on my case that entire meeting in front of the manager?”.
So, let’s rephrase that.
“You know, I don’t think we were on the same page during the meeting with the manager this morning. Can we talk about that? I’d like to know where you’re coming from.”
By using “you” statements, we’re putting people on the defensive. If we re-frame the conversation, we can have better interactions with the people around us and have a better connection. Remember what I said about resolving a situation quickly in our heads? It’s better to have it resolved outside of our heads, my friend.
Think about the words you’re using
Inc.com had a great article on re-training your brain, and it boils down to something very key: what you put out is what you get back. Your thoughts become your words. Those words become your actions. Your actions gain results – some good, some not good. When you’re stuck in traffic, you may lose your patience. You may use words to describe the car in front of you in unkind terms. (Real talk: I have trash-talked the car in front of me many a time.) What are we gaining when we do that? Does it make us feel better in the short term? Or does it simply add more stress to the situation?
Your best friend is going through a hard time. You genuinely want to help, and so you say so. “I genuinely want to help. How can I help you?” Your friend may thank you and simply need to vent. Maybe they need a cup of coffee, or perhaps they just need space. By thinking about how you were communicating, you created that space for them to be what they needed to be. Not only are they happier, which makes you happier, but they are more likely to reach out to you in the future.What you put into the world is what you get back. Click To Tweet
Listening is part of communicating
Another key part of thinking and communicating clearly is listening. Now, I know that the teenager in all of us is going, “Ugh, I know, Mom”, but hear me out. When was the last time you really heard what another person was saying? On a grand scale, it can be a speech given by a celebrity or politician. Somewhere closer to home, though, is that friend on Facebook who is always posting. There’s that coworker who comes by your desk every day and complains about their job. Your grandmother, who always wants to talk about whether or not you’re dating someone. (Love you, Grandma.)
Take that same pause and listen to what they’re actually saying. Maybe that coworker is stressed about a big deadline, or their manager is breathing down their neck. That Facebook friend? They could simply be lonely. Your grandmother simply wants you to be happy and is communicating that in the best way she knows how. By being an active listener, you can get to the core of what someone is saying, and communicate better.
So call your mother, your brother, your sister, your friend, and offer to just listen. Give feedback. Make them feel heard. It’s the small steps that lead to bigger actions – that old butterfly effect – and will not only make you a better communicator but a better person.
How can we all be better communicators in work and in life? Share your thoughts below, and share this post with your friends! Xx
Photos found on Unsplash