The Art of Communication

Here I am, doing something completely new and foreign to me, writing a blog. As a Clinical Psychologist a lot of my writing tends to be highly structured, scientific and formal. What a great experience to express my knowledge and skills more informally.

The art of communication is an area that is explored in depth in the therapy room. Communication, both verbal and non-verbal are the key to our connection to others. Without these tools we would feel isolated, alone and have difficulty having our needs met. In fact we probably would not survive for long! This makes effective communication an important thing to master! Very rarely would I experience a therapy session in which communication was not explored or discussed. However before jumping into “HOW” of mastering the art of communication we have a fair amount of work to do first.

Often people come to therapy describing feelings of; frustration, anger, disappointment, and confusion in their relationships. Perhaps there is conflict, perhaps silence and avoidance. They may know “WHAT” they want to say, but due to a range of reasons (often fear) they are unable to communicate their message clearly or at all. At other times we go about our interactions with very little awareness of ‘WHY’ we are communicating.

This leads me to a very simple breakdown of “WHY” we communicate:

At times we communicate with those around us because we need to achieve something. Perhaps we need to arrange a dinner date, figure out who is picking up the kids from school, or make a dental appointment.

At other times we may prioritise our relationships. Relationships require love, attention and nurturing to survive. When was the last time you called your mum just to see how she was, or called an old friend to “catch up”.

Finally, we sometimes need to communicate our needs, dislikes or issues that conflict with our personal goals or values. Has a friend let you down? Do you need to stand up to someone who you observe bullying or harassing another? Do you need to discipline your child for breaking a family rule?

We may enter conversations with others with these objectives in mind. However great disappointment and self criticism may come if we walk away without meeting our particular objective. We may walk away feeling as though we were unsuccessful or “kicking ourselves”. Maybe fear stopped us from expressing our feelings or needs. Maybe anger took hold and “what” I had to say, was lost by “how” I said it. Perhaps I was lost in my own thoughts, second guessing whether what I had to say was important, smart enough or worthwhile. We can walk away from such interactions feeling unheard, unappreciated, less confident, or feeling guilt and regret.

Next time you have a conversation, take a moment before hand to reflect upon what the purpose of this conversation is? What do i want to achieve?

1) Do I need to achieve an outcome at the end of this conversation (e.g. gain an answer to a question, have an appointment booking, or a plan in place?)

2) Am i trying to nurture a relationship through showing interest, expressing feelings or maintaining connection?

3) Do I need to communicate that I am dissatisfied, unhappy or need something to change?

Perhaps I need to do all three!

An awareness of our self is critical to improving our communication and relationships. Knowing our values, our priorities and understanding our own inner workings can help us to better respond in our relationships. The therapy room can be a place to explore and clarify your values, priorities and objectives. Understanding our own thought processes, including our judgements, assumptions and predictions can help us identify barriers to communication. Understanding our feelings and learning skills to manage our distress can also help us to respond differently. As such, understanding ourself is the first step in learning the “art of communication’.

Regards Louisa :)

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