Communication is the cornerstone to connection. It is the way we bridge the gap between feeling understood, asking for what we need, sharing our ideas, and many other ways we express ourselves in relationships with the people around us. We each have our own style of communication, and body language, as well as active listening, account for most of what influences the information that we take in. In fact, research shows that nonverbal body language accounts for more than half of communication yet we only hear about 25% percent of what is said.
With the plethora of advice on how to be a better communicator, we may find ourselves wondering what is the secret to communication? Dr. Miller understands that there are several. Whether you want to change the way you handle conflict within your family, make big changes in individual therapy, or you want to get to know your co-workers better, communication is key. Below are four secrets that can help you shift the ways you communicate:
Everyone knows that silence can feel a bit awkward sometimes, especially if you don’t know the person you’re talking to all that well. In these moments, we may feel the impulse to say something to fill the gap. Yet, sometimes when we do this, we can take away from the natural flow of conversation. We can also risk saying something without much forethought, which doesn’t always land on the other person the way we’d like it to.
The truth is that it’s perfectly normal to have silence in a conversation at times. It’s best if we don’t make assumptions about what the silence could mean. And if you’re curious, you can always ask. We all have days when we are more tired than usual, or we are lost in our own thoughts, or we just don’t know where to take the conversation next. Silence can mean many different things and it doesn’t need to be taken personally nor does it need to be defining of the relationship. We can take time before saying the next thing. Every conversation has silence at times and it doesn’t have to be awkward.
Intentional silence can be an incredible tool in individual therapy, and your discomfort and attempts to fill the silence may actually lead to some important insights about how you tend to engage in relationships.
It sounds cliche, but truly, the best advice for communication is to be yourself. In her years of research, Brene Brown reminds us that people aren’t attracted to perfect, they are attracted to real. It is okay to be a little different or shy when striking up conversations with others, especially if you’re meeting them for the first time. In fact, if awkwardness is something that the person you are talking to notices, it’s important to remember that there is nothing actually wrong with it. The whole of you is much more interesting than a few moments of awkwardness.
In the vein of practicing authenticity, it’s helpful to remember that words don’t need to be said perfectly, and there is usually an opportunity to follow up if you’ve misspoke. Practicing authenticity means that you don’t need to shoot for perfection, you just need to move forward with your intention the best way you know how. Communication gets better with practice and when we give ourselves the space—often in individual therapy—to learn. When it comes to our partners, sometimes the best opportunities to learn how to communicate comes when we are repairing our failures. Be sure to take accountability, say you’re sorry, and move forward with what you’ve learned.
Have you ever heard of the power pose experiment? A researcher from Harvard University, named Amy Cuddy, ran an experiment where some of the participants held a posture where they looked powerful like a superhero and the other half held postures that exuded very low power and confidence. She found that those who held high power postures had decreased levels of stress hormones and increased levels of testosterone. She also found that there were significant correlations between power posing and increases on test scores, increases in risk taking, and increases in creative performance.
In kindergarten, we learned that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. This may not only be a parable for children. When we bring a listening presence to another person, we are giving them an opportunity to not only be listened to, but also show that their voice is valuable. This small token of respect goes a long way in communication. It shows that what they have to say is important and worthwhile. It shows that we are genuinely interested and that we can hold off on running the conversation. This act of mindfully sharing space can foster deeper connections between people. You may have felt this in individual sessions with your therapist and discovered just how powerful it can be to truly tune in to what someone else is saying.
Asking questions is another way to gather more information about another person, and allows them to feel comfortable sharing more about themselves. Asking questions helps you to really listen to the full picture of what they are saying. Asking questions before you respond with your own impressions, ideas, or advice, can help another feel very appreciated. As you can see, communication is not only about talking, it is about listening too.
If these tips resonated with you, reach out to our team to learn more about individual therapy and our skills groups. We are ready to get you started on learning skills that help you improve your relationship with yourself and others around you.