The Approach: Communication
When is the last time you practiced speaking and listening from the heart? Or the last time you took the time to identify and name your emotions? How confident do you feel in your ability to communicate with others in a healthy, effective, and meaningful way?
At Youth Odyssey, we value and teach our students to communicate well. And with Valentine’s Day approaching, there’s never been a better time to recap and focus on this essential life skill. It’s what sustains happy and lasting relationships.
“I think for any relationship to be successful, there needs to be loving communication, appreciation, and understanding.”Miranda Kerr
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
Bryant H. McGill
Communicating well means two basic things: listening and speaking well. Listening is the pathway to understanding others. To listen well, we must listen actively. Active listening involves giving our full attention to the speaker by making eye contact, putting aside distracting thoughts, and noticing both verbal and nonverbal cues. In the words of Stephen Covey, “”Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The goal of active listening is simply and only to understand the perspective of the speaker.
We can show that we are listening by giving our own verbal and nonverbal cues, such as small affirmations like ‘yes’ and ‘uh-huh,’ as well as body language like nodding and smiling. It’s also a good idea to reflect the speaker’s message by paraphrasing, summarizing, and asking clarifying questions. Avoid interrupting and get confirmation from the speaker that you understand his or her perspective before you begin to articulate your own point of view. If you want to assess your listening skills, check out this listening skills test!
When you do begin speaking, remember that how you say something is often as important as what you say. Or, in the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So as you are considering what you are going to say, also remember to think about your tone of voice.
When communicating with others, it helps to be aware of how you are feeling in the moment. Don’t be afraid to take time to check in with yourself and take a deep breath if needed. Share what you are feeling by making statements that take responsibility for your emotions rather than blaming your feelings on others. For example, instead of saying, “you’re a jerk for not calling me,” you could say, “I feel lonely and forgotten when I don’t hear from you.”
It’s Time to Shine!
Above all, remember that the purpose of communicating with others is to build and strengthen relationships. Give others the benefit of the doubt and try to look for the positive intentions behind their behavior. Be willing to collaborate and compromise with others. Accept feedback without defensiveness and put the health of the relationship above the desire to be right. Your heart of gold is waiting to light every candle in the house this Valentine’s Day.
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”Rollo May