We spend so much of our daily lives communicating in one form or another. Research from the University of Missouri shows we spend 70 to 80 percent of each day communicating, with 45 percent of that time spent listening and 30 percent speaking. The remainder of the time is spent reading or writing.
This is the communication that molds us into the people we are and builds the foundations of the lasting relationships in our lives. It’s the way we express ourselves.
But all too often, these same interactions can get lost in translation. We get complacent in our conversations with one another and don’t put an emphasis on clarity, but in order to have healthy relationships, consistent communication is key.
Here are five ways to improve communication in our relationships:
1. Be an active listener.
Ironically enough, the University of Missouri also notes that even though we spend a significant amount of time each day listening to others, we aren’t always great at it.
Sure, it’s what we do most often, but are we really taking the time to actively listen and comprehend what others are saying to us? Probably not. This is where miscommunication starts to happen. Someone tells us something and we’re listening, but not truly absorbing what is being said.
When a loved one talks to you about something, give them your undivided attention. Really grasp the message they are trying to convey, and show them that you genuinely care about what they have to say. That way, when this same topic is brought up in the future, you’ll know exactly what it’s about and why it’s important to your friend or family member.
Check out these tips from Forbes on being a better listener.
2. Immerse yourself in the interests of others.
If your kid likes karate, ask them why it brings them joy. If your spouse really enjoys working out, join them and find out why they’re passionate about it. And if a friend has been talking nonstop about a stage play they’ve been wanting to see, go watch it with them and discuss it afterward.
Take the time to immerse yourself in the interests of others to show them you care. Open the door to meaningful conversations about them and what they like. Relationships shouldn’t be one-sided.
3. Be approachable and accessible.
One of the worst sensations is when you feel like you can’t talk to someone you love about something important to you—especially if they are your spouse, parent or best friend. Your friends and family shouldn’t feel like they are burdening you by wanting to talk.
You need to ensure that you are approachable to the people you care about. They should feel like they can come to you at any time for advice, or even just a listening ear. Make sure you remind them that you are always there for them—no matter how busy life gets.
Want to know if you’re approachable or not? Take a quiz to find out.
4. Show respect for thoughts and opinions that aren’t your own.
There are 7.8 billion people in the world. Odds are, many of them are not going to think and form opinions exactly like you—oftentimes this includes even your closest loved ones.
And that’s OK. If we thought the same way and believed the same things all the time, the deeper conversations that form the basis of our relationships wouldn’t exist.
Don’t dismiss the ideas and opinions of others just because you disagree, because their viewpoints are just as important as yours. Instead, communicate about them in a respectful way, and practice tolerance for one another. Because if you can communicate about things you don’t necessarily agree on, you’ll be able to talk about anything.
5. Practice and embrace honesty.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that the average American tells 11 lies per week, including the white lies we tell to make others (and ourselves) feel better.
But here’s the thing, if we aren’t communicating honestly, we definitely aren’t communicating clearly. Eventually, the truth will be revealed and the years of trust you’ve built together with friends and family members will be gone.
The authenticity of your interactions will always be in question. And this isn’t a situation you want to be in with a loved one.
You can avoid this by just embracing honesty. Be open with them and always tell the truth in a respectful way. The APA found that this will make you healthier, too.
Ultimately, the communication we have with each other is what builds relationships and makes them stronger. Keeping lines of communication clear, while always striving to make them better, will make for the lifelong relationships we long for.
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