The beginning of the year can be daunting, overwhelming, and anxiety-producing because it feels like a time when we HAVE to change things. Whether it is our patterns, self, or goals there is a societal expectation that we have resolutions to “better ourselves,” which is a lot of pressure. So many of our resolutions lack guidance or design to make us successful in them, but I think we can do something about that at least as it relates to one New Year’s resolution–being a better communicator.
Communication isn’t our strongest suit for many of us, and that is expected because we have never been taught true communication skills for interpersonal relationships. We have mostly learned how to communicate in terms of public speaking, but that’s it. I am of the firm belief that our world would be drastically different if we were all better communicators and I can say for certain that our sexual, romantic, and platonic relationships are all the better when we all communicate better. So let’s collectively agree to make better communication skills a New Year’s resolution, shall we?
Where do we start on the journey of becoming better communicators? Right here is a great place to start. Here I am going to lay out the early stages of developing communication skills so that you can actively work on them and as the month progresses I will go into depth on different aspects of communication skills through the In Bed With a Millennial series that you can watch on my YouTube channel.
Communication is half listening and half talking, so you are going to start by working on the listening part. For many people active listening is the hard part of communication and it is not entirely our fault. We have endured so much as a society and species over the last few decades and that has messed with our minds in some ways, one of them being attention spans. With shorter attention spans it can be more difficult to actively listen to what is being said to you, and it is only more difficult if you are someone that is neurodivergent. So to practice active listening, I want you to pay attention when you are talking to someone. First, just take note of when your attention starts to shift. If you are more cognizant of how long your attention span is it will make it easier for you to work on your active listening.
After you realize how long it is, start trying out different ways to hold your attention to what is being said to you. If you are nuerospicy you might try stimming during talking to help you better focus on what is being said. You can also try looking at the person’s mouth that you are talking to. The focus on their mouths helps pull your focus to what they are saying more closely. After you have made some progress in terms of attention span you are going to add another layer to your active listening and that is responding in the moment. Now, this is not to mean random “yeah,” “oh,” and “reallys” as they are talking, but truly responding to what is being said. When they say something that invokes emotion respond. If you feel like you aren’t understanding, ask questions. You can also repeat back what you are being told as a form of active listening that helps with not just the listening but also making sure you are comprehending the information which is crucial to communication. If we are consistently misunderstanding what is being said to us then the communication is not effective.
After you feel more confident with your active listening it is time to turn your attention to your verbal communication. Do you feel like you communicate clearly? Are you making your points? If your answer to either of those questions was no, that’s okay. With so much information swirling around in our heads, it is easy for things to get jumbled and wires to cross. To combat this take a beat before talking with someone. Make sure you know what you are trying to communicate. Do you want to let them know how something they did to you made them feel? Are you trying to find out if they are interested in engaging in something with you? Are you trying to convince them of something? If you are clear on the goal of your communication it makes it easier to share the information. You don’t have to deeply outline every conversation you plan on having, but for the bigger things you should have some idea. It may take some time to get used to figuring out what you are trying to get across but that’s okay.
Developing communication skills is not an overnight task. It is going to take a little while and some serious intentionality, but the reward is absolutely worth it. Being able to communicate effectively and clearly can help improve your relationships, lead to more satisfaction in the sense that you are getting what you ask for, and help in building your confidence around communication in all areas of your life. So take a deep breath and take it easy on yourself as you work to learn and grow in this area and no you aren’t alone in this.