Most of us have poor communication skills – at least at times. Sometimes we choose our words to manipulate, people please, control, cover up or alleviate guilt. Our communication attests to unconscious feelings, repressed thoughts, low self-worth or shame. We often justify, rationalize, compensate and talk all around the block without getting to the point. We can be unassertive. We can badger and threaten. Sometimes we lie. Often we’re hostile or even abusive. We may apologize a lot, or just hint at what we want and need.
Women, especially are indirect in much of our communication. Men are usually more direct, but often they’re so blunt that it’s too hurtful to get the message across well.
We don’t communicate so poorly on purpose. We do it because we’ve learned this approach at some point in our lives. Either in our childhood or adult family, we learned it was wrong to talk about problems, express our feelings or opinions, or we learned ineffective ways of doing so. Some of us learned it was wrong to directly state what we want and need. Many learned it was definitely wrong to say no, and to stand up for ourselves.
Some of us may be afraid because we’re not sure who we are and what we want to say. Many of us have been inhibited and controlled by family rules. Some of us had to follow these rules to protect ourselves – to survive. However, many of us are afraid to tell people who we are because we don’t believe it’s OK to be who we are.
Communication is not mystical. The words we speak reflect who we are: what we think, judge, feel, value, honor, love, hate, fear, want, believe in, and commit to. If we think we’re not good enough, our communication will reflect this – no always in the actual words we speak, but it will come across. We will judge others as having all the answers. We’ll feel hurt, angry, scared, guilty and controlled by others. We will want to control others or value pleasing others at any cost. Or we’ll fear disapproval and abandonment. We will hope for everything but believe we deserve and will get nothing. We’re often committed to being responsible for other people’s feelings and behavior. We’re jammed with negative feelings and thoughts.
Talking openly and clearly is not difficult. But we have to start with knowing that who we are is OK. Our feelings and thoughts are OK and our opinions count. It’s OK to talk about our problems, and it’s OK to say “no”.
We can be assertive and stand up for ourselves without being abrasive or aggressive. Learn to say, “This is as far as I go. This is my limit. I will not tolerate this.” and mean it!
Talking is a tool. We talk to express ourselves. We talk to be listened to. Talking enables us to understand ourselves and helps us understand others. Maybe we don’t always have something earth-shattering to say, but we want the contact with people – to share and be close. We sometimes talk to take care of ourselves – to make it clear we will not be bullied or abused or that we love ourselves enough to make decisions in our own best interest.
We need to take responsibility for our communication. Let our words reflect self-esteem and esteem for others. Be honest, Be direct. Be open. Come from a gentle and loving place. Be firm when the situation calls for it.
But above all, be who we are and say what we need to say.