Real communication can be a risky business for us humans. Our world is packed tight with social expectations and rules and it’s very easy to fall short. Actually, it’s pretty hard to know what’s acceptable and what’s not in our wider society these days. As we evolve as a species, life has become more complicated than ever. This complication can leave us feeling confused and afraid and can be the reason why you find it hard to communicate.
Communication plays a vital role in where we find ourselves in our lives. Both verbal and non-verbal communication help us navigate and assimilate the world around us. If we are ineffective in our communication with others it can lead to a whole host of problems. Good communication skills lead to better outcomes in all situations we encounter.
Why we find it hard to communicate is multifaceted. So what can we do if communication is a problem for us?
Bad past experience.
All of us yearn to be heard, especially by those who matter to us. However, many of us have had a negative experience with being heard, particularly as children. This leaves us with great difficulty in opening up and sharing our thoughts and experiences with others. Offering opinions is terrifying so we stay quiet and in the background. What if we are humiliated by others because of what we say? What if what I say is wrong? I can relate to all these scenarios and it has taken me a lifetime to overcome my fear of rejection and not having my needs met. However, as an adult, I have worked to become self-sufficient enough to not allow others’ opinions and reactions towards me take my power. Yes, I get hurt, but not so bad that it changes who I am. Of course, it’s also helpful to note, that we can learn a lot from other people too. Being open to suggestions on what we might need to change in ourselves can be life-enhancing. So long as it’s communicated effectively of course!
Easier said than done, I know, but if you understand your core values and mannerisms it goes a long way to being authentic in our communication. The basic principle of speech is of course important. However, so is the non-verbal kind. The energy we exude, our facial expression and tone of voice give energy to what we are saying – or not saying. Do you know how other people perceive your communication skills? Most of us probably don’t and can add to the reasons why we find it hard to communicate effectively. It can be helpful to work on these areas to help with your confidence regarding your communication skills. Perhaps you need to speak a little louder to be heard or a little lower so as not to intimidate. Are you attentive towards others when they need you to listen, or do you seem distracted? All these things matter.
Authenticity is the key.
You’ve heard the saying “say what you mean and mean what you say.” I wish I had taken this onboard on many occasions in my life, but it takes courage. How many times have I found myself in unacceptable situations because I didn’t speak my truth and gave my power away? Too many to count honestly. However, life teaches you lessons, and eventually having let myself down too many times, I began speaking for and standing up for myself.
I had a conversation with someone very close to me recently who’s been having a very hard time. When he needed his friends most, they seemed to reject and abandon him. This was a large group of friends he’s known since school. There is a certain culture within the group that he started to find toxic and immature. There was really no room to be yourself. He eventually found that being with this group made him feel uncomfortable and he wasn’t prepared to “fit in” anymore for the sake of having friends. He began to challenge the toxic mindset and eventually, they stopped inviting him to parties and meetups.
This is an excellent example of a person who knows his own values and what is acceptable to him. It also shows great courage to speak up even with the risk of not being popular and being rejected. However, being able to live with himself was more important than fitting in and because he knows himself well, communicating his truth was something he couldn’t ignore. Yes, rejection hurts, but rejecting yourself hurts more and for longer.
Knowing when to hush.
The basic principle here is respect. That means respect for yourself and for others. You have to decide what is worth giving your energy to and what is not. I again had to learn the hard way about when to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes, no matter how effective your communication skills are, people will be hell-bent on misunderstanding you. Just walk away. There are no winners here. There will also be times when you just need to listen. Listening is one of the most powerful and proactive tools in communication. We can offer another person a lifeline by just listening and not offering an opinion.
Good communication comes with life lessons and maturity. It also helps if we can teach our children the fundamentals around communication and help them hone their skills. Letting them know that they are valued and their opinions matter goes a long way to helping with confidence in communication. Of course, we are human and we won’t always get it right. Each opportunity to engage with others is a learning experience that helps us grow. You can always overcome the reasons why you find it hard to communicate.