It’s How You Say it

April 12, 2022 By The Siren Of Support

As parents we look forward to being able to talk to our children and have them express their needs. With the ability to speak, the temper tantrums decrease. Frustrations with a misread nonverbal angry toddler lessen. My son, the worm summoner, had a pretty awful time with speech when he was younger. I said, “Can you say that again, please,” more times than I could keep up with. His speech issues hindered his ability to communicate to the point that he was having more tantrums and more frustrations than when not being able to speak at all. I had the “Mom-sense” to understand most of what he said, but strangers could not. He was unable to communicate effectively. He was a terrible communicator at no fault of his own. 

Last week in RemanU’s “It’s More Than What You Say,” we discussed all of the wrong ways to communicate. Historically, I have not been a great verbal communicator. I have been passive at times, aggressive when I felt cornered, and even passive aggressive when all else failed. I didn’t like the way it felt, so I did something about it. I started reading books and articles on how to be a better communicator. I reflected upon myself after conversations that didn’t go well. I asked myself could I have approached the situation differently? Could I have said something more assertive? Maybe less aggressive? The answers were always yes. I have not yet mastered the art, but I have chosen to start the journey. Identifying and accepting a weakness is the first step towards becoming better. 

Bad, or negative communication has the potential to leave the parties involved in the conversation with more questions than answers. At least one of those that partook in the interaction will be left with feelings of emptiness, regret, or the general anxiety caused by unresolved issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum, positive communication feels good. You close the conversation with a sense of completeness. Even if a final resolution isn’t reached, you have laid the foundation for future discussions. A productive exchange will allow thoughts, ideas and feelings to be expressed in a safe, mutually respectful environment. 

I still remind myself daily what I have to do to go from a mediocre communicator to a master of conversation. I continue to make these skills a habit with the intent that in the future it will come as easy and thoughtless as taking a breath. 

Skills to be a better communicator

  1. Be An Active Listener: Do not listen to respond, listen to absorb what the other person is saying. Take a moment when they are done speaking to form your response. When thinking about your response while the other person is still talking, your focus is pointed inward and you may miss key components. Repeat back what was said to make sure you understand what was said and so the speaker knows you are listening. “So, what I hear you are saying is…”
  2. Watch Your Tone: The meaning of even the simplest phrase can be misconstrued if your tone of voice is too passive or aggressive. Try it with me, in your happiest friendliest tone say, “Sounds good.” It should sound like it actually does sound good. Now try it with a snarky, attitude filled tone. Same words, two totally different impressions. 
  3. Be Clear and Concise: Your message will get lost if you use too much fluff. Walk in knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it. Practice with a colleague or in the mirror if you are facing a difficult conversation. Jot down some notes to ensure you don’t miss key details and stay on track.
  4. Be Aware of Your Body Language: RBF anyone? Your face has the ability to say a thousand words even when you aren’t speaking. Be cautious of eye rolls, furrowed brows and unconscious expressions. Slouching, leaning back and resting your head in your hands all make you appear disinterested in what the other person is saying. Sit tall, make eye contact and be alert. 

Six years later and a round or two of speech therapy and my son speaks clear as day. We look back on videos from years ago and he doesn’t even know what he was saying. While he’s come a long way from physically not being able to communicate, I now battle with providing him the skills to be a good communicator. 

Homework tonight: Read Mom’s article.