The art of communication has been my discovery in the last couple of years. It started with self-awareness about my low communication skills. Understanding that talking to me could be difficult. It was hurtful, but I decided to fight it.
I was raised in a family where communication was far from perfect. Interrupting, raising the voice, and not listening was normal. Sadly I also started to do so and didn’t know it was hurting my connections with people. I’ve managed to create friendships, but always seen that some people couldn’t cope with my person.
My journey to improve my communication skills started when I was almost 30. The most significant moment came when my friend and I started a podcast. When I listened to our first recording, I was shocked. I made many mistakes, had problems creating correct sentences, and had poor pronunciation. Also, I interrupted my friend when he was speaking. But I learned so much about the way I talk. With time I got better, and those recordings helped with day-to-day communication. Getting good results from podcast recordings got me more interested in communication. This year I was invited to do a lecture about "Communication with people" at a music festival in Poland. To prepare for that, I did extensive research. Here I want to share what I discover.
What is communication?
Communication is usually defined by the transmission of information. In this case, I'm focusing on verbal communication between people. But Communication is everywhere where you can define emitter and receiver. It has many definitions, and it can define other things. I especially like the definition of "design" that states: Design is communication. The design aims to communicate well with the person interacting with it. If the design is good, a person will know the information, how to interact, or how to use the object.
Don’t search for communication tips on Google
Searching for insights on communication in Google, you will instantly dive into the coaching pond. Books, courses, and a selection of 5, 7, and 10 tips will fix your communication skills. None of it shows the real problems. I’ve also watched a few YouTube clips. In one, a guy in the first minute said that you need to find a hobby, people like to listen about hobbies. Of course, you can find some good elements in those resources, but generally, it’s knowledge from the category “How to become a millionaire” or “How to become famous”.
After that foul-start, I decided to structure my research. First, I wanted to define communication, then discover elements of good communication, and after that go for specific communication problems. In the end, I will share tips on how to practice communication.
What do you get from good communication?
Stupid question? No, you will get better at connecting with other human beings. But apart from that, there are many other profits. Good communicators are less susceptible to depression and getting a divorce. People with good communication skills have better business careers and do not tend to end up in an argument with other people.
Elements of good communication
First of all, you need to want to communicate well. It'll be hard to do if there is no will from you. Getting better at communication requires some work. For some people less, for others more. In my situation, I saw significant results after 2–3 years, and I’m still working on that.
The second rule is also not about talking. You need to listen well. When someone is talking, you are focusing on receiving that information. Do not interrupt, do not think about what you want to say after she/he finishes. It’s obvious to spot when a person is thinking about something else when you speak to them. Of course, it’s tough to listen with focus when someone is speaking too long, boring, or talking about something that we cannot agree with. The difference in viewpoint is the most difficult. People tend to interrupt and respond aggressively when something is not acceptable to them. But to succeed in communication, you need to understand and respond respectfully. In that approach, we can connect and maybe change someones thinking. If we fight, people close their minds, and the communication is over.
Now we can speak. But before opening your mouth, think about what you want to say. Keep it simple so that everyone will understand. Don’t manifest, speak calmly, life is always teaching us you cannot always be correct, and people tend to be wrong.
You can observe excellent communicators and well-educated people. When they are listening, they focus on receiving and understanding that information. They will take a second to think about what they want to say when before they speak. They will say their thoughts in the shortest way possible and use simple words. There is a weird perception of intelligent people using complex words, but in reality, those people use simple words, so everyone can easily understand them. Also, they will be humble, they will not manifest their beliefs.
And that’s it.
- Want to communicate.
- Listen and understand.
- Speak short & simple with respect to your communicator. Don’t manifest.
In reality, the most fundamental communication element is understanding the person you are communicating with. Without that, things are getting rough.
Understanding your interlocutor
Not understanding other people is the nail to the coffin of every conversation. When people understand others, they can feel compassion for them and not tend to argue. Sadly it’s challenging. I want to present a few cases that kill communication between people.
Shaping your viewpoints is good, but it can trigger poor communication when you face someone with different ones. The best example of that behavior can be seen in political discussions around the world. Political polarization is getting bigger every year. I believe the key to reaching people with different political preferences is to understand their thinking. Only in that situation, we can respectively communicate with them. Making fun of them and saying they are stupid will block them and encourage them to fight. The future is to educate other people kindly. But sometimes people are hard to debate. For example, sometimes people bring religious arguments as a breaking element of conversation. It’s hard to fight something you couldn’t prove by the scientific method. I hope in the future, we will treat religion as sci-fi. It can still be helpful to people, but it’ll not compromise communication between people.
Nowadays, people are more aware of mental problems. Thanks to that, they are trying to treat them. Sadly it’s still not so popular to say that I have a mental problem, and the tools to treat those diseases are not great.
Talking with people with depression could be difficult. Even if you are trying to be good as possible you can, It could go wrong. Depending on the state of depression, people cope in different ways, usually throwing away good communication rules. A good communicator will understand that, but it’s difficult. Also, people in the active treatment of depression are difficult to handle. Drugs from the SSRI group have side effects affecting day-to-day behavior. There is a significant movement of researchers testing psychedelic substances for treating depression, PTSD, and other mental problems, and the results are promising.
Communication in relationships is a good playground for training. Because of the tension between two people, we can experience real difficulties in communication. Esther Perel is a great psychotherapist specializing in human relations. She defined the term called “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. It describes four elements that kill good communication in a relationship. It’s Criticism, Stonewalling, Defensiveness, and Contempt. Those four elements highlight the biggest problems in relationships, which leads to more tension.
How to practice communication?
To start improving your communication skills, just talk to other people. Be aware of what you’re saying. Apart from that, many specialists are saying that reading and writing improve communication skills. From reading you get better vocabulary and from writing you improve putting your thoughts in words.
It’s also beneficial to observe good communicators. Good podcasters are enjoyable to listen to. I recommend Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Lex Friedman, and Tim Ferris. I especially like how Joe Rogan listens, he puts his ego aside and focuses on a guest.
Regarding books about communication, I can only recommend “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (1936) by Dale Carnegie. It’s known as one of the first books about self-improvement. It contains fascinating interviews with people like Henry Ford and the presidents of the USA.
Good luck with communication!
P.S. I've named the blog of my business The art of communication to develop ideas about communication.