Secrets of a Confident Communicator

Secrets of a Confident Communicator

Teenage Daughter Arguing With Mother on Porch

Authored by: Emily Roberts

It’s not always easy to talk to others, especially when emotions are running high.  Many people try to avoid the conversation altogether, or get so frustrated that they say things they later regret. The way we communicate with others, especially during emotionally intense situations, contributes to our overall level of confidence. With the right skills, and some practice, you could be communicating with your family members, frustrating colleague, or friend with ease.

Communication and confidence go hand in hand. When you are able to express your feelings and needs effectively, you feel better afterwards.  Even if the other person responds in a way that is disrespectful, you can walk away from the situation knowing you did your best. With increased awareness of, and acceptance about, our role in communication mishaps, we are more likely to avoid these frustrating experiences, making us more confident in our ability to express ourselves.

Before You Say a Word

Chill out. Get out of your tunnel vision of frustration and “I must be right” mentality. Distracting yourself, even for a minute could save you from responding in an emotional way. Get mindful in the moment; even if you have to get mindful of how many tiles are on your floor (yes count), the lyrics to a song, or some other seemingly trivial thing. Just stop thinking for one minute about the interaction you hope to have and the emotions that come with it. Obsessing about the outcome of a future event will only heighten your anxiety and make you less confident.

Be mindful of the other person. Trying to have a conversation during someone’s favorite TV show or after what appears to be a tough day is not generally the best idea. Interrupting, or being neglectful of others’ time, is a big button pusher for many people. It’s invalidating and can make others feel as though you don’t care about what they are doing or their mood. If you don’t know when a good time would be, ask.

Confident Communication Skills

Avoid sarcasm. Sarcasm makes others feel disrespected, not to mention you might appear insecure and defensive. Sarcasm tells others you can’t tolerate them or the conversation. While you may feel it diffuses uncomfortable feelings, in reality it makes others frustrated, and often wanting to avoid future interactions.

Stay Calm. No matter how heated the situation, confident communicators are able to stick to the facts and express their feelings with words rather than behaviors. No yelling, door slamming, threatening, or emotionally unregulated outbursts. They compartmentalize their emotions in hopes that they can be heard.

Listen and validate. Let the other person know he/she is being heard, offering the same respect you hope to receive. Validation doesn’t mean you have to agree with the person; rather you are attempting to understand where he/she is coming from. Phrases such as: “That must have been terrible. I’m sorry that happened.” are examples of how to validate another’s experience.  It shows your listening to more than words; you hear how they are feeling.

Avoid the word “but”; use “and” instead. In any situation try to avoid “but” at all costs. It invalidates others and often causes the other person to feel defensive. “You did a great job on that project, but you should check your proof reading next time.” Wow, what a back-handed complement! The listener doesn’t even hear the praise, as he/she is focused on what he/she did wrong. Using the word “and” potentially changes the way feedback is heard, and internalized. “You did a great job on that presentation, and you should check your proof reading next time.”  Both ideas can be held in one’s head at the same time: the compliment (validation) and the action (problem solving).  The listener can feel good about needing to do something different, especially as the emotion and effort was recognized.

Avoid all or nothing words. The words, always and never, especially when accompanied by “you”, are generally not effective when trying to make a point. “He is always late or never on time” is not true. We are generalizing in an internal attempt to make someone feel empathy for our frustration. It may be true that they are rarely on time. However, use a word that doesn’t have as much heat to it. Try “Often it feels like” or “Recently, I have noticed”. They are not all or nothing; they are more subjective, effective terms.

Do it face-to-face. In potentially complicated or highly emotional situations, confident communicators try and make discussions happen in-person. Text messages, instant messages and email may only complicate things more. Is it easier, and quicker for sure, yet tone is often compromised,  and you have to infer a person’s true emotions (emoticons don’t count). If you care about the other person, try to communicate in a way that allows both of you to be heard.

Communications skills can be learned, and implemented, at any age.  Confident communicators keep these highlighted strategies in mind, using them to their advantage in relationships with others.  If you communicate effectively, not only will you feel good about it, your relationships will be stronger, as well.