Communication-Tips For How To Shift Yours
Most of us have found ourselves in that uh-oh moment when we realize we didn’t quite get our point across clearly. We’ve been misunderstood or haven’t communicated what we wanted to, or how we wanted to. For some of us, this communication mishap can be a daily occurrence. Our thoughts about how these communications go down can leave us feeling disconnected, disappointed, angry, ashamed, unseen — even unloved.
We can learn to shift that pattern to show up in a loving way when we communicate with others and with ourselves.
Communication, generally speaking, refers to how we pass information to one another and to ourselves through speech, non-verbal communication (facial expressions and hand gestures), body posture, writing, and visualcommunication.
Communication is so much more than just the words that we say. The way we speak, the words we type, what we wear, and the images we project into the world tell a story about us. Our stories change over time, and our communication is what helps us connect our inside world to the outside world.
As pack animals, the way we communicate sameness or difference is important.
Our communication choices can lead to our feeling more or less connected to others. Part of the group or separate from.
Let’s say you said something without pausing to be thoughtful about your words. Maybe you reacted instead of responded. The person you’re talking to lets you know that their feelings are hurt. It’s so important to recognize that you didn’t hurt their feelings any more than they can hurt your feelings because that’s simply not possible.
Our thoughts create our feelings and their thought, that was a harmful statement, led them to feel hurt. While holding that as truth, we also get to choose how to show up and take responsibility for the impact our statements have in this world.
If someone tells you that the impact of your words was hurt or harm, you get to choose as an adult, in your emotional adulthood, to own that impact.
You can apologize from a sincere, earnest, loving place without making it mean something about you.
We say these things without even thinking. “He hurt my feelings,” or “I didn’t mean to be mean.” “I feel like such a stupid jerk.” You can erase those statements from your vernacular, my love.
He didn’t hurt your feelings. Your interpretation, your thoughts about what he said did.
There is space for intention to matter. It’s important that you didn’t mean to be mean, but impact is worth looking at too. Not as a way to beat yourself up, but as a way to learn and grow and show up in this world in your deepest integrity.
For example, if you said something and were told that your comment was centering yourself, or was racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic.
You get to pause, to breathe, and to say “I hear you that I hurt your feelings with my words, and I apologize for that hurt. I see what I’ve done, I feel in my heart for you and the hurt that I’ve caused, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate it and I apologize.”
Then you get to do your work. You get to sit with what you said and to analyze the privilege, the thought habit, or whatever went into saying what you said, and you get to show up next time from a different — perhaps more enlightened but maybe just a more thoughtful place.
Let’s examine different motivations for why you may communicate in the ways you do.
For example, you may want to appear a specific way to other people. We’ve all been there. We want to look sensitive, interested, interesting, politically cutting edge or super smart. We adjust our speech, texts and Insta pages to project a specific image that may not be really who we are.
We are, in essence, denying ourselves. My habit was to repeat something I had heard in an unconscious attempt to sound smart. I tried to sound a specific way, often like my dad. I was denying myself and also denying others the opportunity to meet the real me.
Communication should serve to show ourselves, our truest and most authentic selves, to others.
Saying something we half understand or only two thirds believe to sound smart takes time and energy away from staying in touch with who you are.
Another common pattern is using communication to try to force a connection with someone else.
Feeling disconnected, like we just aren’t clicking with someone is uncomfortable. Particularly if you’re having the thought that it means something less than awesome about you.
So much of being a human is being in relationship with others. When that isn’t happening, anxiety and worry can swoop in quickly to fill in the space left by awkward silence.
On a deeper level, when we try to force a connection to get the other person to laugh at our jokes, to respond to our questions, to show interest in us, we are focused outside of ourselves.
We put our focus on the other person and try to make them feel comfortable or to get them to like us.
In these moments, when you can catch yourself, I recommend a three-pronged response.
As always, step one is a deep breath, connecting inward.
See if your inner child is around. Maybe that little human needs a hug or to be told that everything’s okay.
Step two, if the situation allows, is to find a reason to remove yourself for just a moment.
To use the restroom, to respond to a text, to build a quick birdhouse, whatever you can do to politely remove yourself from the situation.
Once you’re out of there, the next step is to use some quick thought work to reorient yourself.
Ask yourself, what are you feeling in the moment and what thoughts are underlying those feelings? This work is challenging and it takes practice, but when we can learn to see the situations in our lives with some perspective, we can see where our thoughts are leading us to have a feeling.
Perhaps, I want this person to like me, and then we feel anxious. Then we act in a way that may not be in alignment. Because we’re trying to convince someone else to find us lovable.
We may be having the thought error that it is your job to make other people happy.
But it’s not your job to make other people happy. That’s up to them.
It also isn’t realistic to expect a strong connection with everyone we meet and spend time with. It’s also just fine.
In those moments when you catch yourself talking or typing to try to force a connection, you can start with a deep breath and get some distance from the person or situation. Then you can just do a quick simple evaluation of how your thoughts are informing your feelings.
Are they telling you that you should be connecting, that you should be loved and lovable? Are you thinking that something is wrong if the person with whom you’re speaking isn’t giving you that feedback, that external validation?
As women, we’re often told directly and indirectly that we shouldn’t speak up for what we want.
The reality that many women face is that when we speak our minds and come across with strength, we’re told to pipe down, told to relax, told that we’re being too brash or another B word. Or on the flipside, we’re just laughed at and dismissed.
As a coping mechanism, some of us develop the habit of indirect communication.
Rather than saying “hey babe, can you take out the trash?” We find ourselves saying things like, “babe, I had a long day, I’m exhausted and I’ve been doing so much around here while you’ve been like, sitting around. What are you even doing on your phone? Could you please just take out the garbage?”
No one wants to be on the receiving end of that form of indirect communication.
While out of context, it’s easy to say that we would never say those words. But in the moment, we may be stressed, tired, hungry, angry or lonely. We may be nervous about how we’ll be received or worried that we need to justify our desires in order for them to be met. If we’re accustomed to using big emotions to get a response, perhaps because as children little emotions were not responded to, we can say all sorts of things that we would never dream of saying.
When we communicate with guilt and resentment piled on to an indirect communication, we are doing nothing good for the long-term health of our relationships.
I want to invite you to become aware of the patterns that we looked at today: communicating to appear a particular way to others, communicating to force a connection and communicating indirectly.