By: Emily Simonian
Introducing yourself in a way that makes a good first impression, expressing your feelings with loved ones, or asking for what you need – these are all important messages we find ourselves frequently needing to share with others. Strong communication habits contribute to healthier relationships, success in the workplace, and increased feelings of contentment and self-mastery. Communication allows us to share our thoughts and feelings with those around us so that we can connect and understand each other, but it’s a lot more than just the words we choose.
Here are three of the most important communication techniques to improve your skills, based on current research in the mental health field.
1. Be mindful of your non-verbal communication habits
Not all communication is verbal– we convey messages to others using facial expression and
body language as well. As a matter of fact, 70-90% of communication is non-verbal. So that
means a smile, a frown, or a furrowed brow are sending messages to those you’re in
conversation with, even if you aren’t speaking. Simply being aware of this can help you
communicate more clearly or create a better first impression.
For example, in your next job interview or team meeting at work, notice your posture– if you’re hunched over with slouched shoulders, it might look like you’re not feeling too secure about yourself, whereas sitting or standing tall with your shoulders back creates a much more confident presentation.
2. Make specific statements
Vague communication is something that is very common and often leads to confusion in
conversation. For example, if you’re giving feedback to a family member about running late, you might say something like, “You’re always running late. Can you try to be on time?” That
statement is fine, however, the more specific you are, the easier it will be for others to
understand and be on the same page with you.
Instead, try, “I noticed that you struggle with running late in the morning. Let’s try to leave the house 10 minutes earlier every morning.”
That statement starts by pinpointing that mornings are what you’re focusing on instead of using a vague term like “always” and finishes by making a specific request to be 10 minutes earlier, rather than saying “try to be on time”.
3. Practice pausing before responding
We’ve all said things we don’t mean, and that usually happens when we’re reacting impulsively in conversation. Learning how to pause before jumping to conclusions or saying something you’ll regret later can help you redirect potential conflict and foster better mutual understanding with others.
The most popular way to learn how to pause before you speak is to remember to take a breath before you say anything. Not only will this buy you time to formulate an articulate response, but it will also help calm your nervous system, so you’ll be thinking clearly.
Next, ask a clarifying question to make sure you’re understanding what was said to you. That might sound something like, “Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Could you explain in a little more detail?” Doing this can prevent conflict and misunderstandings that happen when we assume or jump to conclusions.
Making just one small change in the way you practice communicating can impact change. Start by choosing one of the three techniques listed and give it a try over the next week.
Building habits requires time and patience, but hopefully, you’ll find the outcomes to be rewarding in your personal and professional relationships.
About Emily Simonian
Emily Simonian is the Head of Clinical Learning at Thriveworks, a nationwide therapy practice, where she develops curricula and resources for the training and ongoing education of therapists and counselors. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist passionate about improving relationships, Emily has been quoted in Healthline, The Washington Post, The Today Show, HuffPost, Shondaland, Insider, VeryWellMind, Cosmopolitan, and InStyle, in addition to appearing on morning television in Washington, D.C., to discuss dating and couples’ issues. Emily is a charter member of the Delta Kappa International Marriage and Family Therapy Honor Society, and has helped diverse populations across California, Hawai’i, Virginia and D.C., in many different therapeutic treatment centers and practices. Simonian is the author of "The Essential Family Therapy Workbook", which will be available nationwide in November 2022.
Stay connected with Suited for Change by following us on social media @suitedforchange, and signing up for our Monthly Newsletter for additional updates.