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Monday, November 8, 2010

Communication 101

Psychology is how the human mind thinks, and when we think we usually talk! So it makes sense to compose an article about communicating. After all, a lot of problems are created by ineffective communication and then again a lot of problems are solved with effective communication!

Have you ever heard of that saying, "lost in translation?" Well this is true for much of the communication that goes on within people from day to day. How many times have you heard someone say something and think, "Are they serious...are they being sarcastic?...what DID they mean by that?" The pure science of communication, syntax, grammar, tone, pitch, body language...it can get so hard to "read" a person's mind. So what is a person to do? A person is to realize that we are not mind readers! Isn't it simple?!

The problem with many people's expectations is that they expect that what they say will be heard and understood, regardless if they say it in some "roundabout" way. The solution is this: to realize that you are not a mind reader, to not over-analyze situations, and to simply just ask someone to clarify what they want or how they feel if you are unsure. When you speak, you must not expect someone to be able to read your mind. You can't speak in code and expect everyone to know how to decipher it. Isn't that just unfair? It is important to voice your feelings and desires.

Now here comes the problem. How do you authentically voice your opinions, feelings and desires without sounding so blunt, demanding, or even robotic? How do you tell someone that they are making you angry without sending them to the hills, stomping off in the opposite direction?

Here are a few tips for simple communication that may help:
  • When you are mad, express you are mad. Do not give the silent treatment, do not slam doors and pout. You are not in your terrible twos, do not act like a toddler! Express your anger in channeling it into a more healthy venting process. I used to know this woman who cleaned her house whenever she was mad, and surprisingly, it helped. Some people find comfort in exercising, writing, singing, or even writing an angry letter to a person (but never ever ever sending it).
  • When you want to tell someone the things they said or did made you upset, do not start with the blame game. Do not start with "YOU MAKE ME SO MAD WHEN YOU _____" or "YOU ARE ALWAYS MAKING ME CRY WHEN YOU _____." This is a sure way to get this person to completely shutdown because they feel threatened. A more suitable approach is to understand that the feelings are coming from you. Saying things like "I feel very sad when I see you doing _____." I feel frustrated when you _____." This puts the responsibility on you for feeling your emotions, and tells the other person that they are being a catalyst, but you are not blaming them. You are just communicating honestly and genuinely.
  • Body language speaks VOLUMES. When talking to someone make eye contact. Don't fold your arms and legs, don't fidget or bite your nails. Don't gaze around constantly looking like you are up to something. Simply give them the same attention you expect when you are talking to them. Be aware of the messages you are sending with your eyes, your body, and even subtle things like your tone and pitch of your voice.
  • Listen well. And when I say listen, I mean really listen! Even if you have to quiz yourself after on how much you learned about this new individual! It is, believe it or not, extremely rude to not remember names. According to CommunicationTips.Org (2007), listening is one of the pertinent pillars in engaging in effective communication!
  • Treat people with dignity and respect. You have no right to condescend anyone for any reason. Treat others how you would like to be treated!
  • Be responsive! Do not daze out in space while someone is talking. Offer feedback. Nod your head, show that you are listening, it will show you are genuinely interested in this conversation! And if you are not, then why are you talking to this person in the first place?!
These are just a few tiny tips about communication. In a world full of "tweets'' and Facebook status updates, it seems many are lacking more and more face-to-face communication skills. Yet according to Jacobson (2009), the need for effective communication skills will play a pertinent role in the development of every industry. So get out there and don't just talk, communicate!

References

Jacobson, S. K. (2009). Communication Skills for Conversation Specialists. Washington DC: Island Press.

Communicationtips.org (2007, August 4). Effective Communication Skills. Retrieved from http://www.communicationtips.org/

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