How to Build Connection Through Communication
Growing up, we all learn to communicate differently. We all may speak the same language, but we have different styles, different things that connect us, and different things that disconnect us. Have you ever hear the saying “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”? It is a prime example of how important communication is in creating a relationship or harming a relationship. This article is about communication, and how we communicate with each other. This’ll be a very broad overview, but if you’re interested in more information, you can find me on Facebook, which I’ll link down below, and I will be writing other articles that will go into more depth.
If you read my bio, my credentials should mean that, in theory, I am good at communicating. While this is true (for the most part) in a work setting, there are many mistakes that I make when communicating inter-personally.
It is something that we might take for granted that just because we speak to each other that we actually hear each other; that we are actually listening. But what’s the difference? If I’m paying attention to what my partner is saying, if I am listening, then surely that means that I am hearing what they are saying to me, right?
I have been in so many different arguments as a human being that I failed to consider my knowledge base in communication. If I had been IN my body and present in the disagreement, I am fairly confident that I could and would have reacted differently and the outcomes would have been different.
Knowing where someone is coming from in their communication is part of the battle. We know (sometimes) where we are coming from, but sometimes, we are too caught up in our ego, or our perceived social standing, or any number of other considerations, and we get lost in that and not what’s important. We feel like the argument becomes a do or die situation and we need to solve the issue in our favour.
I say that we know where we are coming from only sometimes because we don’t know our communication style, the communication style of the person we’re communicating with, or how our past informs the interaction we are having now. Often times, our level of emotional intelligence plays a large part of how we communicate as well.
Phew! That is a lot! Seriously. That whole piece above is what some people go to school to study. I mentioned my certifications above. Certainly, if someone were to know about communication, it would be me, right? Wrong! I’m human, after all. I make mistakes in how I talk to my partner, friends, or colleagues. I get wrapped up in my ego. The worst part of an argument is sometimes when we’re invested and suddenly realize that we’re wrong. But I’m getting off track.
So, what are communication styles? There are a quite a few theories and frameworks out there that give people a different perspective on their communication style. Some discuss the words we use (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Auditory-Digital), Some discuss aggressive vs. passive, etc. While I’m not going to say that one is better than the other, the important thing is to recognize that other people have needs to be met in communication, just the same as you have a preference in how people communicate with you and how you communicate with others. You can look up tests online that will tell you what your communication style is, and you’ll see how many different models there are, but it is a place to start in being able to build stronger relationships through communication.
Another part about communication is our body language and our words. It seems kind of obvious that our words make up our communication, but just how much might surprise you. Studies have shown that 55% of our message is communicated through our non-verbal communication, 38% is through how we say what we say, and only 7% is through the actual words we use.
Non-Verbal, Para-verbal, Verbal Communication
So, maybe when we’re having a disagreement with someone, it’s because we aren’t speaking the same language, or because we are sending the wrong messages in our body language or how we say things.
Part of the work I do is teaching people to ask questions. After all, through questions we can open or close the flow of communication. Think about talking with a friend. You can ask them “How are you?” and receive a direct answer. This is an example of a closed question, and it only requires minimal listening skills. If you were to ask the friend “what was the best part of your day?” you would receive a lot more information, and it would take a lot more listening skills to hear what was being said (and sometimes was ISN’T being said).
Another key communication skill when it comes to asking questions is using silence effectively. If you can be present in the conversation, pay attention to your body language and the type of question you are asking, being silent afterwards is an important building block. Silence not only allows the person to compose their thoughts, but it might prompt them to give a longer response, thereby providing more information. Silence, however, can be an uncomfortable skill to use, since we tend to want to fill the space with noise and there is a sense that by not speaking, we are not communicating.
After you read this, my hope is that you will contemplate how you communicate with the people in your life. How much more effectively do you think you might be able to communicate, to deepen your relationships, if you pay attention to your body language and how you say things, or start to learn your communication styles?
Moving forward. How do I use this information?
So what do you DO with this information? How do you benefit and build stronger relationships through communication?
Well, for starters, I mentioned “being present”. Being present means that you are focused on the conversation you are having, and not partly there and partly thinking about what’s going on after you finish this conversation, or other stimuli (dinner plans, traffic, what’s that noise, what’s on the persons face, etc.). Being present in a conversation means maintaining eye-contact, leaning in so the person knows you’re engaged, and hearing them.
Another piece of usefulness from this article is the concept of open and closed questions. As you ask people questions moving forward after reading this, be aware of what types of questions you are asking. Sometimes, if you are looking for information, changing the way you are asking a question can open up the flow of information. For example, “how was your day at school?” may seem open, but tends to be a bit more of an example of a closed question. Chaning it to “what did you get up to at school today?” allows you to get much more information.
The last piece I would suggest you use from this article is being aware of communication styles. Not necessarily ascribing to a specific model (i.e. VAK, Assertive (etc.), Analytical (etc.) or any other model), but moreso being aware that the person may have needs in communication that you might not be meeting. If you are feeling like your message isn’t getting through clearly, try asking an open question about how best the person likes to have messages communicated and see where that leads you.
As I said above, this article is very broad as I could not cover everything about communication in one article. If you’d like to read more, take a look at my other posts.
Thanks for reading!