Communication is one of the most important aspects of life. It allows for connection on every level. In order to be successful in any relationship, it’s important to be able to communicate well. The following suggestions can help to minimize or eliminate the misunderstandings, contention, and apathy that can often derail our family conversations.

Be a Listener First 

When it comes to understanding one another, language is obviously a key factor in healthy communication, but the one truth we often miss is that the power position in a conversation is starting as the listener. 

Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” A lot of us tend to want the speaker role first. One reason is that we think we have something important to say, but what you have to say won’t matter if you don’t understand what the other person’s ideas or feelings are or how to respond to them. 

Being the listener first and the speaker second will allow you to empathize, modify how you feel if necessary, and approach the conversation in the healthiest way possible. This will give you an advantage when it is your turn to speak. You’ll be able to summarize what was said so it’s clear to them that you understand, even if you don’t completely agree with them. It will also help them realize that you see their perspective and are ready to have a healthy, mature conversation about it. 

Be Self-Aware in Conversations (verbally and non-verbally) 

The next thing you’ll want to do is have enough self-awareness to know the boundaries in the situation and to be able to tell the difference between your feelings, the other person’s feelings, and facts. When you are able to separate those things from each other, you can speak responsibly and convey your feelings in a way that can be accepted by the other person when they’re in the listening position. If you go ahead and state everything as fact, the listener can’t be fully present because they can’t accept that what you’re saying is a universal truth. 

When you’re the speaker, avoid personal attacks, elevating your voice, and letting your body language make you look like you’re disinterested. These are all things that shut down communication, which is the opposite of what you want to do. Communication is verbal and non-verbal, so you could be sending non-verbal messages that make you difficult to listen to without even knowing it. 

Balance is key

The balance between listening and speaking is important in communication, and when you have a healthy amount of both, you can facilitate great, productive conversations.

If you would like to learn more about listening and speaking in regards to communication, you can find our two-part episode of the Not by Chance Podcast on Apple Podcast or Spotify.