Stacy G. Smith, MS, LPC
How Come No One Listens to Me?
"Communication is Everything." While this statement may border on cliche, it certainly rings true when uncovering why you may not feel heard during conversations. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, I've decided to compile a list of 3 key strategies to help those wanting to work on building their effective communication skills, and in turn, work to reduce their growing level of stress.
Communication is an essential part of every day life. Whether we communicate verbally or non-verbally, our words and actions can speak volumes. The problem is, many individuals find effective communication to be a challenge, whether conversing with coworkers, friends, a spouse, kids, or the next door neighbor. Perhaps our changing society has played a role, where texting, abbreviations, and emojis are becoming the go-to methods, rather than having live, face-to-face conversations. Perhaps as children we never learned effective communication, instead picking up on the jabs, arguments, and passive aggressive remarks from those around us. Perhaps bullying may be to blame, where we felt the need to withdraw and stay silent. Regardless of where our communication skills developed, it is never too late to learn more effective strategies. However, as with any new strategy, practice is essential.
Strategy 1: Speak in a manner where others will want to listen.
I think we'd all agree that no one enjoys being yelled at, and it can become frustrating when someone is trying to communicate with you from another room, and when they are multitasking with what seems to be more important priorities. In these situations, the desire to listen quickly drops, leaving the other person feeling upset, and unimportant. Then, perhaps to grab the other person's attention, an even louder and somewhat more aggressive tone can follow, which only distances the person further from the conversation, and the snow-ball effect gets put in motion. Here are some helpful tips:
Use "I" statements, rather than "you" statements
When beginning statements with "you," such as "You never help out around the house," or "You're always late to everything," the other person can easily feel attacked. They may then become defensive, and either respond in an unproductive manner, or walk away altogether. Instead, communicate how you feel about their actions, such as, "I feel overwhelmed when having to tackle all the housework after a long week at work. Would you mind helping me out with the vacuuming this weekend? Your help would mean a lot."
And, if you judge the above statement as odd, strange, and that others would look at you funny, you are not alone. Many of my clients express the same sentiments, until they go home, practice it, and come back reporting that while it initially felt strange, an argument did not take place, and a more positive outcome was reached.
Invite the other person into the conversation, instead of demanding their attention.
Be mindful of your tone of voice and decibel level.
Be clear in your message and/or what you are asking from the other person. Avoid long winded explanations or vague requests.
Approach the other person when neither of you is heated, distracted, or in a rush. Timing is essential. If the other person is running out the door, late for work, that may not be the best time to discuss their lack of help with the chores.
Strategy 2: Be Aware of Nonverbal Cues
The majority of our communication is nonverbal. This means that people notice our eye rolls, moans, groans, and lack of focus. They notice when we walk off, slam a door, throw something, and yes, check Facebook or Emails in the middle of a conversation. They also notice the silent treatment, raised eyebrows, smirks, and tapping feet, not to mention head nods, grimaces, and stares. A lot can be communicated without saying a word, and when communicated ineffectively, the chance of someone wanting to hear from us verbally goes down.
Strategy 3: Take a teamwork approach.
Disagreements are a part of life. When two people who have different backgrounds, interests, strengths, skills, values, etc... are brought together, whether at work, school, or at home, there are going to be disagreements. Period. The key is to become Solution-Focused, rather than Problem-Focused. Instead of throwing every problem out on the table, and perhaps subtly (or not so subtly) indicating that the other party is the direct cause of each of them, discuss strategies for overcoming them, for compromising, and how each person can help in their own way. Maintaining a problem-focused communication style only creates new problems. In addition to the problem at hand, you now have to cope with the animosity between the individuals involved, which makes the problem solving process even more difficult, and emotions even more intense.
When communicating to solve a problem, ask yourself, has this become person A vs. person B, or the more effective, person A and B vs. the problem?
DISCLAIMER: The blog posts shared on www.StacySmithCounseling.com contain the opinions of Stacy Smith, MS, LPC, and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations or affiliates. While Stacy is a licensed mental health professional, all blog posts on her site are for informational purposes only, and are never a substitute for professional advice catered to your individual needs. Stacy Smith is not liable for any diagnosis, treatment plans, or decisions made based on the information presented on this website. Furthermore, commenting on posts does not mean a treatment relationship has been established with Stacy Smith.