As starseeds, we believe it is our mission to improve the world we live in. We believe we incarnated on this Earth in order to bring about a paradigm shift that will reduce suffering that exists in the world.
There are many different forms of suffering and millions of reasons why humans suffer. Many belief systems attempt to explain this suffering. Today, I wanted to describe the one tool that saves humans from suffering. This is a tool that can alleviate suffering because it works to improve and strengthen relationships.
Again, this won't alleviate all suffering, but it can cut down on illogical, senseless, unintelligent suffering which comes in the form of arguments, fights, and misunderstandings. This is a quick "one size fits all humans" type of fix, and its called:
Good Communication SkillsThink about the sources of suffering in your life.
Would you like to improve your romantic life? Then develop good communication and body language.
Want to pass that extremely hard class? Practice communicating your needs to the teacher or classmates.
Would you like to develop a good relationship with your parents? Practice listening to them, and communicate trust.
Want to improve your career and enhance your social circle? Practice good communication.
Human interaction is all about quality, not quantity.
In order to have good communication skills, we must start with the basics.
ListeningActive listening is an important skill, and is not as simple as it sounds. We've been conditioned to be selective listeners, only listening for certain things, ignoring things we don't like, and remembering things we do like. Usually, we are listening for a chance to express our opinion, this can lead to poor understanding. When we listen with the intent to respond we leave the other person feeling unheard, un-cared for, and misunderstood.
The next section is from a respected colleague of mine. Adam Osborne, LPC, from Western Michigan University teaches several classes on communication and relationship building. He writes about the benefits of learning non-verbal behaviors and utilizing them in conversation. Here's what he has to say:
Nonverbal BehaviorsObviously the things you say to someone you are talking to are important, but there are many other ways of communicating other than with words. Everything that you do communicates something to the people around you. It may be helpful to think in terms of messages rather than words used. What message was sent when you said something or did something? Think of sarcasm. You say one thing, but your voice tone says something else. I bet you can think of situations in your life where you claimed to be “right” in a situation because you said the right thing, but the person you were talking to sensed that you were being ingenuine or misleading through nonverbal cues. Eye rolling, breaking eye contact, saying you want to do something in a somber or sullen tone… the list goes on an on. Many times our words don’t tell the story as well as our nonverbal communication.Facial expressions. It can be helpful to match your facial expression with the emotion being shared with you, or the one that you wish to convey when you are talking.Hand gestures. These provide emphasis on things that are said. Some people use hand gestures a lot more than others.Proximity. Be aware of how close you are standing or sitting to someone you are talking to. Too far and it will seem like you are disinterested, too close may make the person feel uncomfortable.Eye contact. As a general rule, making eye contact is a good thing. You want to be cautious though not to intimidate by staring too strongly.Posture. If you are leaning way back, head tipped to the side with your legs sprawled out across a couch, you send a very different message than if you are on the edge of your seat, leaning in toward the other person. Be sure your posture matches the intensity of the discussion.Head nodding. Head nods can communicate that you are following along or they can communicate agreement with what is being said by the other person.Minimal encouragers. “Mmhmmm”, “Mmmmm”, “Ahhhmmm” etc. Sometimes words such as “okay”, “alright”, and “Oh” can be used as minimal encouragers as well as any other sound you might use that conveys concern, understanding or that you want to hear more.Volume. No one likes to be yelled at, or have to ask you to speak up repeatedly. Find the right volume for the situation.Tone/pitch/inflection. You can vary your voice in many ways to convey different messages. Imagine saying “I love you” in a very droll, monotonous tone, and then again in an excited tone, or yet again in a very soft and gentle tone. You are sending three very different messages with each of these, despite the fact that you are saying the same words.Verbal BehaviorsContent vs. message. What is the person really saying? Can you read between the lines? This is one of the most important things to remember when building relationships. If you pay attention to a message rather than a sentence, the person you are talking to will feel better heard and understood. A person may tell you a story about a wonderful visit to see family, but subtle voice inflections and facial expressions may tell you that the reason this person is telling you this story is because they miss their family, not because they wanted to talk about the fun they had.Keep the focus on the other. Any strong relationship needs to have balance. It needs to have a reciprocal nature that allows both parties to feel heard and understood. So don’t let this topic lead you to think that you should never talk about yourself. You should. But if your goal is to make a new friend, or build a relationship at school or work, then you would be well suited to keep the focus on the other, helping them to feel important, heard and understood. The following skills may help you to keep the main focus on the other person.Restatements. A restatement is when you reflect back the words that the other person just said. This helps the other to know that you’re listening, helps them to hear what they just said and clarify if needed, and to prompt them to continue talking about that topic. For example if a friend said to you “I really love getting out of town on the weekends to go on adventures” Then you could reply simply “Adventures.” And the person would be prompted to tell you about the adventures they like to go on.Paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is when you reflect back to the other person what they just said, but you use your own words instead of theirs. You add a fresh perspective, different angle, or highlight what you thought was most important. This is the most useful skill when trying to build relationships. You can use it very frequently, and if done well, will keep conversations interesting and focused on the person you are talking to. It will let you understand and empathize with the other person and help them to feel that you care for them. An example might be if a classmate said to you “I really don’t like having tense conversations in class, like when we talk about race and sexual orientation.” and you could respond with “It sounds like tense conversations make you uncomfortable.” The person can then go on and talk about why it makes them uncomfortable. They may not think that uncomfortable is the right word, and correct you. “Well not uncomfortable, but more like annoyed.” and that’s great! You had a misunderstanding, and it got cleared up in about two seconds. Without paraphrasing you don’t usually have the chance to get such clarity in communication.