The more time I spend building relationships –both friendly and romantic- the more I realize communication is not a given. For the longest time I thought I was an effective communicator because every aspect of my life required me to be social. However, I’ve recently learned how ineffective I am when it comes to communication. Like relationships, communication takes work which often requires personal evaluation.
Problem #1: Communicating Nonverbally
In my tightest circles, there are understood mannerisms and tones that convey meaning without anything having to be said. In person and via text it’s clear when someone is upset, overwhelmed, or annoyed. I assumed these non-verbal cues were universal until they kept being overlooked in my new friendships. It wasn’t until a friend constantly kept saying, “use your words” that I finally realized I needed to articulate the difficult feelings and not expect people to know or assume.
***Bonus Tip: This is especially true in romantic conversations when we expect our partner to KNOW what we really want even if we say we’re fine. WRONG MOVE!
Problem #2: Passive Aggression
I recently read a book called The Four Agreements which shares four laws by which we should live our lives if we want to be in control and have freedom. The third agreement is don’t make assumptions, and I’ve come to learn that I make tons of them.
I realize I had issues addressing problems that should be common sense. This first came up in my household where I thought cleanliness and consideration was a standard. If something wasn’t done, I assumed my roommates expected me to take care of it. So, instead of addressing it directly, I took petty stances of holding out to see how long things would go before being taken care of. I believed it wasn’t my job to clean up after or teach other adults how to stay neat, so I didn’t always have direct conversations. In hindsight, the only person who suffered was me because our cleaning standards were obviously different and the lack of consideration didn’t seem to bother anyone but me. I eventually had to learn to that you can’t hold anyone to a standard without first articulating your expectation.
Problem #3: Not Understanding Your Communication Style
I used to get so annoyed when people called me or tried having full conversations via text. To me, it was clear that calls were for emergencies, boo-loving, business, or clarity. For others, a call was simply more personal than a text. Instead of getting annoyed with people for the impromptu calls, I learned to establish boundaries around the best way to communicate with me: Always text first to see if I’m free or able to shoot back a quick response. If the conversation seems lengthy via text, I’ll call when available. (Now if I get a partner that has an issue with this, we’ll have to hash that out when the issue arises.)
Communication is necessary but can easily be misconstrued. When misunderstandings occur, it’s important for us to take a look at our own biases, habits, and assumptions before pointing fingers. Learn from my mistakes.