Most disagreements can be boiled down to this description: “They were talking when they should have been listening.”
When we can’t get along, it usually means that there’s trouble with communication in the relationship.
Communication involves the successful sharing of ideas, feelings, information and understanding between two or more people. Most importantly, we are in a healthy exchange when we agree that the sharing is successful and an understanding is reached.
Communicating successfully can be broken down into three main parts: the words used, what is heard and what is seen. Surprisingly, the biggest part of communication doesn’t actually deal with the words being said, but rather how they are being said. This is referred to as non-verbal communication.
Non-verbal communication includes things like facial expressions, body language, gestures, eye contact and tone of voice. These areas make up the majority of our communication with other people and are key to getting our message across clearly.
Other ways to communicate effectively are speaking clearly and specifically; and keeping your message simple, being concise and using only as many words as necessary to convey the message. Arguably the most important part when talking with someone is to listen.
When we actively listen, the chances for successful communication greatly improve. To actively listen to someone we need to pay attention, show interest, ask questions and repeat what was heard. These core strategies show the person that what they are saying deserves to be heard and encourages people to continue talking.
Ways to actively listen include:
- Be present – Pay attention to what the other person is telling you.
- Empathize – Try to put yourself in their shoes.
- Clarify – Get additional information to better understand.
- Paraphrase – Repeat what you heard to make sure you are correct.
- Encourage – Let the person know you are interested and what to keep listening.
- Validate – Acknowledge the person’s worth, effort and feelings.
These tools may seem unnatural in conversation at first, especially if you have never engaged in active listening practices before. However, they do get easier with practice and will create richer, longer lasting relationships.
If you need someone to talk to, contact Envision Counselling and Support Centre to find out more about our rapid access programs like Walk-In Counselling and Bridging the Distance. These programs accommodate both in-person and telephone needs. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 911.