Are you concerned that you may have a communication problem?
What does that mean anyway? As you probably are aware, how you communicate is not just what comes out of your mouth, but everything you convey mentally, emotionally and physically when you exchange communication with someone. When are you most aware of your communication? When do you think you should be most ware of how you are communicating with another person?
Think about how others may interpret your communication when you’re least aware of it. Imagine a typical experience with a cashier at a store that you frequent. Maybe on a recent visit they may have thought that you were grumpy and unpersonable when you didn’t make eye contact or answered them shortly during the checkout transaction. But in reality you were just preoccupied with the work-related email you just read on your phone before you came into the store to pick up a few items for home. Most likely, you weren’t even aware of your communication with the cashier. It’s common to be preoccupied or distracted by our thoughts during common tasks. No big deal….right? I imagine this happens all the time in public. But it is a big deal if it’s happening in your relationships with those you deeply care about. With our loved ones, communication is one of the most important things that we should strive to maintain and possibly improve.
To help make this more clear, take a look at the types of communication as described from Communication Theory.
- Symbolic communication- communication through touch
- Kinesthetic communication- communication through body motion
- Metacommunications- typically nonverbal messages that qualify or clarify other communication
- Paralinguistic communication- communication through tone, pace and inflexion
- Proxemics- interpersonal spatial relations
- Streptic communication- communication through sounds, like whistles and claps
- Digital (or verbal) communication- spoken communication perceived and interpreted based on meaning.
In reading through the above types of communication, maybe you’ve thought of ways that you use these in your communication with your loved ones. Do you use all of them regularly, or do you just use a few of them? Think about how you may be strong at using one or a few of them in a positive way. Maybe there are other types of communication that you’d also like to use more often to get positive results with your loved ones.
So let’s go back to the original question, “Do you have a communication problem?” Think about the results you get from communication and how often you initiate communicating with your loved ones with a positive intention. A few examples of “positive intention” might be:
- complementing them
- having a genuine interest in their daily activities
- helping them through a difficult situation
- sharing something personal with them
- resolving a conflict with them
A few examples of “negative intention” might be:
- criticizing them
- trying to make them feel guilty for something they did
- using them as a means of venting unrelated frustrations
- picking a fight with them
- engaging in passive aggressive behavior
- trying to “win” an argument
Only you know your true intentions. So if you are honest with yourself, I imagine you will be able to identify whether your intentions or either positive or negative.
To help you determine whether our not you may have a communication problem, use the following elements to identify common aspects of your communication.
Elements of Positive and Effective Communication:
___I am fully aware of all that I am communicating.
___I use digital (verbal) communication as well as 3 or more other types of communication with positive intentions.
___I receive kind and open responses from my loved ones.
___I initiate communication with my loved ones when messages are incongruent.
Elements of a Communication Problem:
___I am rarely aware of all that I am communicating (ex: I initiate communication impulsively and react before I have taken a moment to think).
___I use digital (verbal) communication as well as other types of communication with negative intentions.
___My loved ones often respond defensively and angrily toward me.
___I do not initiate communication with my loved ones when I feel unheard by them or bothered by their messages.
If you have all of the elements of positive or effective communication…..Great! Keep up the good work! Maybe you’re recognizing that you have more elements of a communication problem than you ever thought. I encourage you to enlist some help and also request that your loved ones help and support your desire to improve. If you fall somewhere in the middle, I encourage you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, enlist help and also ask your loved ones for their support. Improving communication is foundational to positive, healthy relationships, and usually the first place to start with strengthening or repairing damaged relationships.