The Big Girl Chronicles: The Big Girl’s Guide to Effective Communication
I once witnessed two people at odds with each other having a disagreement. I’m not sure what prompted their verbal altercation, but it was apparent from their dialogue that they were merely talking at each other out of frustration and anger rather than actually communicating. One person was complaining that the other is never there. The other person interjected (while the other was talking) that no one wants to listen to that whining. What ended up happening is that both walked away from the situation probably more frustrated with each other than before they began with more angry words and hurt feelings and nothing resolved.
The lack of communication witnessed between those two could be common in many areas of our world. There are likely many stories that can be shared about friendships that have been dissolved, marriages that have ended, family feuds that have lingered, and even business deals gone wrong because of miscommunication. In my efforts to graduate towards a more mature woman, I’ve decided to polish up my communication skills. These are some of the things I noticed with the couple arguing that I want to better in myself.
The first thing I noticed with the couple arguing is that neither one of them was listening to what the other was trying to say. They seemed to be doing what I call defensive listening. That’s when you only listen with the intent of preparing a rebuttal. Being attentive to what another is trying to tell you sometimes means putting aside your feelings to get the message. Information that could help create a better understanding of each other is lost because you’re only listening to discredit anything that you don’t agree with. Ultimately, your conversation only becomes a tug of war about who’s right and who’s wrong. To avoid this, accept what the person you are trying to achieve an understanding with is telling you. If (s)he is saying that you aren’t doing something correctly and that’s causing a strain in your relationship, whatever that relationship could be, accept that. Listen to the criticism. It might not sound constructive, but make it constructive. This is a very grown-up thing to do because it requires you to manage your emotions, feelings and reactions. Eliminate the temptation to engage in a tug of war with words and just…listen.
After you’ve given the other person a chance to be heard (uninterrupted), restate what was spoken to make certain the two of you are on the same page. In the argument that I overheard one person charged the other with never having “been there” and spending too much time preoccupied with other people and tasks. That person who was marked as absent yelled back that (s)he wasn’t going to listen to all that negativity and ignored what was being said. This way nothing gets solved and they’ll likely end up having the exact same argument at another time. What went unheard is that there are feelings of abandonment and lack of support. Whether those feelings are justified or not, those feelings should still be addressed in order to move forward. When it’s your turn to express how you feel, you can then offer your views. Sifting through what’s been said allows the two of you to separate what’s important from issues that were tacked on as the result of a larger problem.
Once the two of you have had the opportunity to voice your feelings begin to negotiate a compromise. Hopefully after you’ve both had a chance to be heard there should be a better understanding of exactly what the problem is. You might want to begin by asking what would make things better. Then the two of you can arrive at a workable solution on a trial basis to be sure that you really want what you’re asking. In the instance of the argument mentioned above, it could be necessary to rearrange and reevaluate priorities to set aside more time and attention. It could also be helpful to be more understanding of the other person’s responsibilities and demands placed upon their time. Effective communication between the two could foster a degree of empathy that was being concealed or withheld before because of hurt feelings. Now that those feelings have been heard, a healthier and more productive relationship can begin.
I remember arguments I’ve had where I just wanted to lash out and hurl accusations because I felt hurt. My goal was to inflict the same degree of emotional pain or more on the person I felt had caused the hurt. Though that’s a very normal reaction I guess, it’s also a very juvenile one and now has no place in my growth towards becoming a mature woman. In some cases, my inability to communicate effectively could have justified the treatment I felt I was undeserving of. As I move forward to form other relationships, I remove the baggage that ineffective communication can create by practicing the skills mentioned above.