Learn to Communicate

Written by Geri Forsberg PhD

communicateCan you imagine what your life would be like if you couldn’t communicate? That means no tone of voice, no body language or facial expressions, no words, no alphabet. Nothing.

Effective skills in communication are necessary to maintain and increase the quality of our lives. If we can’t communicate effectively, we will be led in a direction we don’t want to go. We all have misunderstandings within our relationships. And it would be very easy to become confused, frustrated and disappointed simply because we are unable to communicate appropriately.

Broken and difficult relationships can be avoided by understanding the principles of communication, and the pitfalls we encounter.

When we know and understand the process of communication, we can actively implement the principles, hone our skills, avoid the problems and become the effective communicators that we all desire to be.

The language we use to symbolize reality is incomplete.

We will always leave something out when we’re retelling a story because we can never say everything about something. And the words we choose to describe something are not reality. They are our understanding of reality.

Do you remember the telephone game from elementary school? One child whispered a message to the next, who then passed it on down the line. By the time the message was spoken aloud at the end of its trip, it varied immensely. Why? Because each child understood the message differently and passed on what she thought were the important details.

How do we avoid the pitfall of miscommunicating reality?

Be careful in the words you choose. Be sure they symbolize what you really mean. And when you’re communicating with someone, ask questions to clarify what the person really intends to say. If you are unsure about what your colleague means when he tells you he doesn’t feel well, ask. Find out what his reality is.

What do you do if someone gets angry at you and says, “You’re all alike. I just can’t stand it.” The simplest and most natural thing to do is to react because she is angry. But imagine what would happen if you ask a simple question like, “What do you mean, we’re all alike? What can’t you stand?” Those questions and a few extra minutes allows the angry person to elaborate on her sentiments and inform you directly what is the matter. Then you can respond more appropriately.

We all see the world differently.

How we encounter the world has been influenced by who we are, our backgrounds, our education, our values and beliefs, our needs, positions, jobs, and more. In other words, we each see the world through our own set of lenses.

To become better at communicating, and to understand others’ perceptions, we need to ask questions. We need to listen. Learn to delay your reaction until you have more information so you don’t form inaccurate assumptions.

In the real world everything is extremely complex. With language, we simplify it by categorizing our words and ideas, and often the categories are either/or opposites.

In the process of simplifying things, we omit details, forget differences, ignore uniquenesses, and eliminate the various levels of meaning. When we view life through such a narrow spectrum, thinking that life is as simple as an “either/or” situation, communication breakdowns are bound to occur.

So, to guard against these pitfalls, we need to develop an open mind with each other and within our relationships. If you believe that reality is as simple as hot or cold, then you can only accept someone and accept what they say or you have to reject that person and reject what they say. However, if you have an open mind, you have more options.

In the real world everything occurs within a context.

We have probably all been misunderstood or had misunderstandings when something has been taken out of its original context.

Although we don’t fully understand how much our environment influences us, we need to consider that when we communicate. We must be able to understand the context of our own communication. And we must understand that every message we receive has its own context. By understanding these foundational principles of communication, we can avoid and even solve our communication woes.

With those principles in mind, here are five things you can begin to do today to help you become a better communicator:

  1. Ask questions. Don’t assume you understand what a person means. Once you ask a few questions, it doesn’t take long to really find out what she really means.
  2. Listen. To become a better communicator, you must be willing to listen so you can understand the other person’s perspective.
  3. Observe and be willing to verify the information you receive.
  4. Let people know what you are thinking by sharing it. By disclosing information about yourself, it aids the other person in understanding who you are and how you are understanding them.
  5. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins. If your motives are wanting to understand people and accept them for who they are, then communication will be easier. But if you set out to convince them that your way is the right way, then that’s not communication. And that’s not love.

Take some time to think about a specific communication problem (difficulty, challenge) you have had recently or in the past.

  1. In a few sentences, describe the problem.
  2. In what environment (context) did this communication problem occur? (home, extended family, workplace, other)
  3. Was the communication problem resolved? If so, was it resolved to everyone’s satisfaction? How was the communication problem resolved?
  4. What principles of communication could help you with this situation or other communication challenges in the future?

Now ask yourself some tough questions about how you communicate.

  • Am I seeking to understand the person?
  • Am I listening and really hearing what he is saying?
  • Am I expressing my own point of view so she understands what I mean?
  • Is there anything I’m doing in my nonverbal communication (tone of voice, body language, etc.) that I don’t intend to communicate?
  • Am I making a quick judgement without examining the facts?
  • Am I trying to see things from many different angles or am I just looking at things in an either/or fashion?
  • Am I adjusting my own communication patterns to suit the person I’m dealing with?

Developing your communication skills and abilities is a lifelong process. Throughout our lives we are faced with challenges in communicating effectively. You can learn to be a more effective communicator by:

  1. Observing and imitating excellent communicators.
  2. Learning from your own and others’ mistakes.
  3. Developing a conscious awareness of communication habits, patterns, styles, strengths, weaknesses.
  4. Applying principles of effective communication.
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56 Responses to “Learn to Communicate”

  • Jackie says:

    I have a big problem communicating. I was in an abusive 6 year relationship in the beginning communication came easy as time went I began to shut down and lose myself. I have been out of the relationship for about 2 years, and I am trying to start on a new one. He has been my best friend for 14 years it took us this long to give this a try. I haven’t been able to communicate properly with him. He has helped for me to find myself and be ok again with being alone. I just want to be able to overcome this mental block of get so tongue tied and unable to verbalize the things I want to say. I don’t want to hide what I am feeling but my actions or lack there of which is communicating my feel has been a challenge that I don’t see to be able to overcome. My questions what step can I take to improve on my communication.

  • Aldo says:

    Anna, I believe both Chris and Dream gave you some good advice. Chris suggested that you go to knowingjesuspersonally.com, and talk to a mentor who will be able to minister to you on a one to one basis, and pray for you.

    Dream suggests that you pray and ask God whether He wants you to remain in a relationship with a person who continually verbally abuses you, and who cannot communicate with you.

    I believe God has someone better for you, but you need to trust Him to bring that someone about. Let’s pray:

    Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love for Anna. A love so great it is unfathomable. Help her to grasp the magnitude of that love. Help her to comprehend the sacrifice You made for her in sending Your Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die for her sins, and the sins of all mankind. Lord, touch Anna in a special way with Your Holy Spirit, and bring her to the place of having a relationship with You through accepting and receiving Your Son Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Lord, help her in the situation which she is in, and grant her the wisdom to make the right decision about it, in Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

  • dream says:

    Anna.. Feel free when you are communicating with your boyfriend. I wouldn’t suggest to talk about your previous relationships, since it should be conversation for engaged couples. Talk with him what you are free to talk if he is criticizing and judging you and shouting you up I would consider if there is a future in such a relationship, I would pray that God would show me his will in this relationship. I dont think God would want you to join with somebody who is putting you down in conversation. Since conversation is a building stone in marriage I would break up with that man. That s only my opinion and its your decision. God bless.

  • Chris says:

    anna…sorry to hear of your situation. when relationship problems pop up so quickly then its really time to acess whether or not this person is worth all of the trouble they are inadvertently causing. you see, from a biblical perspective, marriage is to be a blessing not a curse for us from God. sadly, when people leave God out of their lives and relationships, things can go downhill quickly and/or never even get off the ground. its so important to include the architect in his architecture which means jesus, who made us, needs to be with and in us and in our friends and friendships or they are doomed to fail. if you would like more information on how to include jesus in your life and relationships log onto knowingjesuspersonally.com or click talk to a mentor above. i pray jesus would help you to see what i have mentioned as truth and truth that can set your life free today!

  • Anna says:

    Thank you for this article! It is very useful for me. I would like to share a problem I am facing recently. I met someone almost 3 months ago… At the beginning, things seemed perfect but now I feel we have huge communication barriers. I never shared my past with him but he never asks me specific questions. All he says is I want to know everything about u but u don’t want to share things. I really don’t know how to start talking about my past as discussions never come up. How do I open myself to him? How do I make him ask me questions when he wants to know things… Why am I so reluctant? I actually classify myself as a passive-aggressive person and my boyfriend is the one who over/criticises me. That makes me feel so uncomfortable and I just withdraw every time he jumps and says sth which I don’t like. I feel trapped in a kind of way… Don’t know what to… I know I have issues within myself but how do I change things step by step? How do I show him that I care about the relationship but simply cannot communicate openly to him since I feel criticised, judged, shouted at?

    Thanks!
    Anna

  • Susan says:

    blue-jay,

    Communication should be both the ways. It should not be one way.

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