Communication. Conflict. Confrontation. For some folks, these are words that evoke anxiety, avoidance, and anything but confidence. Ironically, one of the first things that babies do to demonstrate their intelligence is communicate what they need and what they want. A baby’s first words are usually met with excitement, pride and relief. Down the road however, problems may arise when what we say as children is met with disapproval. Since we learn to communicate based on how our words are received, painful lessons learned in childhood often follow us into our adult roles and relationships. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.
Communication is the key to all doorways. Communication is the first step to falling in love, to getting a job, to making a friend. It feels great to share our thoughts with others who genuinely listen without being judgmental. When we feel heard, we also feel accepted and respected, and often come away from those conversations with a sense that the other person “gets” us. This is a skill we appreciate in others, and a skill we can develop in ourselves. Becoming a good listener can be as important as saying the right thing.
Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Sometimes it is tempting to avoid telling the truth for fear of looking bad or becoming embarrassed. However, this approach usually backfires. More often, when we fail to tell the truth, we give ourselves away when our words and our body language do not match. Our bodies betray us through difficulty in making eye contact, subtle changes in our skin tone, and restlessness, such that even if the listener does not know the truth, their suspicions are raised by our conflicting messages.
Communication is based on both words and images. Unlike theatrical productions, there is only so much rehearsing we can do to prepare for a conversation. Communication is spontaneous. It is a two-way street. Even when we speak the same language, it is easy for misunderstandings to occur. Consider the problem of asking someone to buy you a pair of blue shoes. Without more information, you could be asking for blue sneakers, blue sandals, blue high heels, blue suede shoes or any number of other blue shoes that a store has for sale. The real key to accurate communication is to use both words and images so that the message we send and the one that is received have the greatest correspondence possible.
Each of us wants our opinion to be validated. This is often more important than agreement. We want our words to be heard. We like to put our ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and solutions on the table and know that others have listened to our point of view. Communication breaks down when we close our minds and wait only for the opportunity to interject our own rebuttal. When trying to solve problems, it is useful to remember that ‘two heads are still better than one’ and that the experience of communication carries a history. People remember us based on how we communicate and they will either be open to us in the future, or not.
Part of growing up is realizing that everyone has a right to speak and none of us is right all of the time. So even for those who were scolded in childhood and made to feel stupid, coming of age offers a wonderful opportunity to reclaim your intelligence and self-esteem. Each of us is unique. As grown-ups, we can feel proud of our individuality, and proud of the good things that we have accomplished so far!
©Copyright, 2011, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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