How Healthy Is Your Communication?

Communication plays an essential role in our lives. Are you a good communicator? Too often our communication is more like a one-way radio than an actual exchange.

When I taught teenagers in public school, there were too many times that it felt like I was tossing my lesson plans into the vacuum of space. None of the students met my gaze. Many of them doodled or dug through their notebooks. I’m sure their minds were scrolling through their social media feeds even though their phones weren’t allowed in the classroom.

Have you ever shouted into a fan? Or tried to have a conversation with machinery running nearby?

Impossible to hear correctly, right?

This is a good reminder that there are three parts involved in communication: the sender, the message, and the receiver. A breakdown can occur when any one of these things goes askew.

Are you a good listener? Statistics show that a high percentage of people are formulating their responses when another person speaks. That means they aren’t listening.

To keep the lines of communication in good working order, we must be intentional. Whether we’re talking or listening, we have a role to play.

As the Sender

If you have something to say, it’s important to get clear on the message.

Read your audience, and if they’re engaged in another activity, ask for their full attention. The best way to know you have it is if they make eye contact with you.

The other thing you can do is ask them to repeat it back to you. That way, you know they heard- and understood- what you said.

As the Receiver

When someone begins talking to you, stop what you’re doing. At least pause. I can slice vegetables and listen, but I’ll really tune in if there’s a conscious shift of my attention.

Attention takes intention. When we don’t listen, it conveys that we think the other person isn’t important to us. They hear, “I don’t care what you have to say.” That’s not a message you want to send.

Which brings up an important issue: body language. Pay attention to non-verbal signals. People often communicate more with what isn’t said than they do with words.

If you’re not looking at them, you’ll miss everything they’re saying that they’re not saying vocally.

Rather than jumping to conclusions, ask for clarification . If you’re ninety percent sure, that’s a ten percent chance of being wrong. It’s better to make certain you’re on the same page as the speaker than to make an assumption that’s completely erroneous.

The Message

As mentioned above, more than half of what we communicate comes from our delivery.

If I’m yelling, you assume I’m angry. If I’m frowning, you guess I’m unhappy.

If I cross my arms while you’re talking, that makes you think I’m closed off to what you’re saying.

In our own strength, we can’t be great at communication. We’re human and we’ve set up certain norms.

One of mine is to breeze into a room and make an announcement and then head on my way to the next thing. If my husband is watching TV, he didn’t hear what I said. If my kids are scrolling on their phones, they didn’t get my message.

And yet I’m surprised when I ask them about what I said?

Consider the words you say, too. Are they clear? Did you get to the point? Sometimes we talk around something we’re uncomfortable addressing, and that’s unlikely to be received as we hope.

How healthy are your communication skills? Are you better at talking than listening? What can you do to improve?

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