I wait for inspiration before writing new posts for my blogs. This morning the concept of poor communication habits popped into my head, especially communication habits we all take for granted and even think are cool or by engaging in these habits we follow current trends. Big mistake.
Now, some of these habits we developed in middle or high school, so I’m surprised to find adults using teenage sarcasm with other adults such as rolling eyes when someone is talking to them, saying, “duh!” when someone is revealing learning something new whether that’s information they find enlightening or a new behavior they find effective. And then there’s that bored expression of, “done that, been there.” The phrases that disturb me the most are, “yada yada ya” and “blah, blah, blah.” I’m not in favor of sarcasm with the exception of the comedy writer or stand up comic. Sarcasm is death to a personal relationship and can even lead to other unfriendly forms of communication.
Obviously, (and we all do this one), interrupting someone who’s in the middle of a sentence can come across as hurtful. And it’s even more hurtful when we cut the person off, complete their sentence for them, and they say something like, “Been there, done that.” When we practice this type of communication we send out the signal that it’s not okay to be vulnerable, it’s not okay to share feelings and thoughts, and we’ve basically called the other person stupid or naive.
Now, some people think they are helping the other person to communicate by dumping words into their mouth because they shorten the interaction and don’t waste each others time. Maybe this is true for some people, but it’s not true for me. I know that I just want to turn off and walk away if a person interrupts me when I’m talking to them or if they quickly change the subject without giving an explanation and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Another rude communication behavior is to multitask when another person is sharing something intimate or vulnerable. If you’re just talking about mundane topics like the weather or sports, then multitasking is fine, but if a person is feeling upset or even passionate about something positive and you multitask, you’re not giving that person your undivided attention and this can erode trust between you and the other person.
Now, if you’re too busy to talk at that moment, set up a time when you can give your friend, family member or colleague your undivided attention and not when you’ll be rushing out the door in the next few minutes. Set up a half hour or an hour depending on the topic. Then prepare a sacred or quiet space to talk. Light a candle if you feel a heavy conversation coming on or sage the room before and after the conversation. But don’t run away from the heavier stuff because it might prove healing for both of you.
If you find that you’re interrupting someone because the topic they’re bringing up upsets you, then step back, take a few deep breaths and tell the person that you don’t feel comfortable with the topic and one: could they save it for another time (if it’s an inevitable topic), or two: could they find someone else with thicker skin or who has professional detachment such as a therapist or counselor to discuss that topic.
Finally, don’t assume that you know where the other person is coming from because you don’t. We often think we know people inside and out because we’ve been together for years, but people change. Not only that, we are letting go of old beliefs and patterns that no longer suit us and never did. As we do this work, we grow in our authenticity so we’re not the people wearing the masks any longer. In other words, listen with your body and your mind as if you’re meeting the person for the first time because in a way you are.
The other thing we do which I find dangerous (even in m own life), is we meet people we have a few things in common with and then we treat those people like bobsy twins, even though they are separate from us. We expect this person to toe the line and like everything we like and think the same thoughts–this is pure fantasy. And even if you have things in common with another person, that doesn’t give you the right to think for them or tell them what they can think. You have never walked in that person’s shoes so you don’t really know what’s going on in their minds and hearts. No one reveals everything about themselves, not even extroverts.
As we grow and evolve, I believe that we can all work on our communication skills. I remember taking a communications course at college and the communications professor made the joke that his wife was always complaining about his horrible communication skills which she found unforgivable given her husband’s profession! Good communication skills don’t come from books or not even this article (which acts as a reminder), they come from opening our hearts and our ears as well as, making sincere eye contact.It’s not easy but it’s what we got.
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