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Communication: More than Just Words

Communication: More than Just Words

Did you know that words account for less than 10% of our communication, and that more than half of our communication is body language and tone of voice? It is an important sign of integrity when we are congruent in our different aspects of communication. It is also important to know that while words constitute only 10% of our total communication, they are very important in conveying your true feelings.

In previous articles we have talked about internal dialogues and our thinking process. That is communication with ourselves, of course what we tell ourselves is important to our health, however what is just as important is our relationships with others. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your communication with others, and how it may directly or indirectly affect your state of your relationships.

Are you being truthful and compassionate in your communication with others?

At first, you might say to yourself, "Yes, I’m pretty honest most of the time (or all of the time)," but dig deeper and ask these follow up questions: "Do I say yes when I mean no?"

"Do I say I’m fine, when I really am not?" (for example when talking to close friends or spouse and family members).

"Do I take my emotions out on others?" (for example, falsely placing blame on someone when you are really frustrated with yourself).

These are just a few ways that we dishonestly communicate with others. When we don’t communicate what we are truly feeling, it places undue stress on our physical and mental state of being, and under this type of stress, we cannot be the best that we can be for the partnership. Be aware that just because we may communicate dishonestly sometimes doesn’t mean we are dishonest by nature. However, we must take responsibility for our behaviors and know that when we become congruent in our communication, we will feel much less stressed and be much more authentic with others.

Are you able to assert yourself in order to be heard and understood?

Being assertive means that we are able to express yourself in a way that clearly states what it is that you need in a non-aggressive manner. When we are not able to assert ourselves, often we end up committing to things that we don’t want to do, being overworked, being self-neglected, and eventually becoming resentful, and sometimes eventually exploding and becoming aggressive to overcompensate. Being assertive relates intimately with being truthful about your feelings. Not being heard creates resentments and tensions that collect within the body causing anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, and many other conditions that has stress as a contributor.

Do I acknowledge and apologize for mistakes I may make rather than covering them up?

This question requires a bit of self-honesty, as ego and pride can get involved when admitting to having made a mistake. While many people find it a weakness to admit to their wrongdoings the truth is that it reflects integrity and strength of character when a person can swallow their pride, put aside their own ego and apologize for their mistake. Acknowledging, Admitting to, and then learning from our mistakes is what contributes to our personal growth as human beings. That being said, there are always consequences to our actions and admitting the mistake may not have a happy ending, but in the end, you will know that you acted in the highest integrity by making amends.

On the other extreme, there are those who over apologize for things that are not their fault or responsibility. This is a tricky subject to breach, but it is important to know what is your "stuff" and what is not. An entirely separate article can be written on this (as I do whole workshops on this topic). The bottom line is if you truly did no wrong, then there is no need to make amends. You are not responsible for other peoples feelings, behaviors, actions, nor are your responsible for environmental catastrophes, global warming, traffic, or delayed airplane flights! You are responsible for your feelings, words, and actions. That’s it!

Are you a good listener?

Listening is just as much a part of communication as verbalizing. It conveys the message to others that you care about what they are saying to you. We all too many times want to be heard but as soon as it is our turn to listen we are interrupting the person talking to us at every other word. Try this exercise: Use the 3 second rule: Next time you are face to face or talking on the phone with your partner, do not start to speak until you hear at least a 3 seconds of silence when they have stopped talking (that’s one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand). Then go on to give your response. You might find that the conversation goes much smoother. In addition, when you are listening to your partner talking to you, give them your full attention---stop what you are doing. You might pick up a message you never would have received had you been multi-tasking. In addition, when your loved one notices you giving them your undivided attention, they will appreciate you more and be more likely to reciprocate.

Do you offer unsolicited advice?

Truth be told, this is an area that I’ve worked hard on being the oldest of several siblings. However, sometimes people just need someone to vent to ... they need to be heard. Though the intention may be honorable, giving unsolicited advice can do more harm than good. Next time a friend or family member calls needing to talk, ask them: do you need me to just listen or are you seeking feedback? The answer will clearly tell you you’re your role in the interaction will be…but still, don’t forget to listen first!

Do you frequently make absolutes, generalizations, labels, or judgements of others when communicating?

These types of messages are counter-intuitive to productive and healthy communication. When we make absolute statements, generalizations, and judgements we are stating that we are not open to the possibility of other options. When we are seeing things in black and white, we are demonstrating inflexibility to an extent. So, listen to your dialogue: Notice how often you use the word "always" or "never." Remember nothing is absolute.

Do you avoid playing manipulative or psychological games when communicating?

Again, these types of messages do not promote healthy interaction with others and in fact can alienate friends, colleagues and loved ones in the long run. Manipulation and psychological games are a form of control. People tend to use them when they are trying to get their way or get over on someone else. Other times, people may use them without knowing because that is what was modeled to them from childhood. Either way it is a damaging form of communication, and if you think that manipulating others makes you clever or powerful, know that the opposite is true. Keeping clean, clear, communication without walls or games is the best way to foster positive open interaction with others.

Do you gracefully give and receive compliments and appreciations to and from others?

Everyone needs a little encouragement now and again including you. It’s okay to receive compliments for something admirable about you, so do so gracefully. As well, don’t be afraid to dish out the joy! You can never know how a simple compliment may turn your loved one’s day around, make an unbearable day just a little better, or stop tears from falling. Exercise: Give your sweetie one genuine compliment everyday for a week, and see how it makes YOU feel. Notice the response of your partner too! How does he or she react to the love? How does it affect your interaction on a daily basis as a couple? You’ll see and feel the difference.

In conclusion, we often look at the interaction with ourselves when it comes to wellness and relationships, but we don’t always consider how interaction with others can affect our own well being. Keep in mind some of the above principles the next time you engage in conversation with the people in your life. You may even apply some of these practices at work, talking to a friend, or even just sitting down with family. As you begin to get consistent with these practices you will notice how the relationships in your life begin to shift for the better.


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Tuesday, 12 December 2017