9 Ways to Be a Better Communicator
I don’t want to write this article, I really don’t. I don’t like listicles. I don’t want to rant. I’m trying to keep my thoughts POSITIVE and focus on the GOOD in my life, truly. But it’s gotten out of hand, friends. You need a little tough love. We all do sometimes. Maybe people in your life are not #8-ing (from my list below) enough to tell you that you’re slipping up. So here I am, pointing out the err of your ways. Because I care.
Communicating is the way we express ourselves to the world, and the way we nurture connection. Communicating better can improve the quality of your relationships, create opportunities, and just make you feel like people ‘get’ you. It’s a win/win. And if I am calling you out here, don’t be offended. It’s all love.
But seriously, address these calamities in your life.
1. Spend less time on it
Not to kick this off on a dark note, and I love an Insta dopamine hit as much as anyone, clearly. But communicating primarily through social media & messaging apps is messing with our heads. There’s a tendency to write for attention that doesn’t translate well to in-person communication. By all means, give social sites a solid effort (we’re on there a lot after all) but remember that there’s life outside of the digital world that’s delicious and worth exploring.
2. Format your shit (and use hashtags sparingly)
Say it with me y’all, formatting is everything. It’s how we pick up emphasis and cultivate clarity in a message. We’re all reading all the time. Throwing hashtags into a block of text is #very #visually #distracting. If you’re trying to draw attention to a specific tag, perhaps something time-sensitive, put it at the end. But using tags throughout a post doesn’t get you enough new followers to inundate the rest of us who already follow you with difficult-to-read captions. Just write it out in regular letters.
3. Speak the eternal truths, but keep it fresh
Look, everything has already been said. Sometimes very well. But no need to repeat clichés (unless you’re going for irony, and careful… this is advanced). Trite quotes will make our eyes roll and we won’t sincerely take your message. Still want to say it? Put some effort and find a new way. Read a lesser known author or poet. Write your own pithy remark. Put your own work out there.
4. Read the email
This seems obvious but it bears repeating. Slow down a bit and read, make sure you got the important info that is already included so your dear correspondents don’t have to repeat themselves or their requests. Slowing down can make you feel less hectic and eliminate unnecessary back and forth. It also shows the people you’re emailing with you give a damn about their time and energy. Your responses will improve. Their responses will improve. Everyone will be happier.
5. Move the ball forward
Email is nobody’s main job. We are all using it as a tool to do other (hopefully meaningful) work. So help make it functional. Read between the lines and make your best guess re: what needs to happen to resolve the issue at hand. A thoughtful, brief framing of what is being communicated and what comes next can really help complete a task so everyone can move on with their day. And don’t respond to just one point, address them all (or let us know why you can’t).
6. Use auto-responders judiciously (or not at all)
Your boss may not agree but hear me out. If you’re gone for less than a week, forget the auto-responder. For one, it clogs up my email with irrelevant replies. But more importantly, we need to stop expecting each other to live on email and respond to everything immediately. Email is awesome, it’s a great task list and way to keep paper trails of conversations (especially for those of us who can’t remember what we were doing last month let alone in an exchange from 2017 cough cough i’mtalkingaboutmyself). But in 99.99% of cases, an email is not life or death. A few days will be fine. Help train the people in your life to let email be as important as it needs to be but not the most important thing.
Now that you’re spending more time off social media and email, you have time to engage with people in real life. People are fascinating if you can get yourself into a curious state and listen to them. It’s incredibly appealing to be listened to. An amazing way to endear someone to you is to inquire into and pay attention to them. It’s rare and memorable for both parties, especially in typically “default” conversations with the soon-to-be-retiring mailman or with coworkers. It’s the type of interaction that becomes a little sparkle in your day. And the quality of our days is the quality of our lives.
8. Start to explore your own boundaries
We are social monsters and between our need for acceptance and our culture’s bewildering obsession with not offending others (in person at least, online is a whole ‘nother story), we often say everything but the truth in face-to-face interactions. Start experimenting with kindly but directly saying how you really feel. “I’m not comfortable with that.” or “No thank you.” are perfectly acceptable. You can learn to strengthen your own voice, be more connected to your needs in the moment, and demonstrate to others that you’re clear on your boundaries (eliminating a lot of shenanigans). You can give others permission by demonstrating that just like you, they too can have boundaries. We all can! Yay! And communicating face-to-face will be more clear and empowering.
9. Give those around you the benefit of the doubt
This goes hand-in-hand with no. 8. Boundaries without generous assumptions are an isolating spiral, and benefit of the doubt without boundaries is a recipe for burnout. But assuming that others have their own (rather understandable) reasons for behaving the way they do can help transform the interactions in your life. I’ve found this to be true 100% of the time. Asking those around you (with curiosity, not contempt) what led them to do or say the thing they did is life-changing. There’s always always a context that helps the whole thing make more sense and provides new ways forward.
So there you go. Nine ways to make this communication thing a little more fun for you and those you interact with. Imagine your life with more ease, with more meaningful connection, with less repeating yourself! These simple ideas will shift the way you show up to others and in turn change how they show up for you. The changes ripple out and bring everyone around you to a higher vibration, a better quality of life. It’s contagious and satisfying.
No hashtag necessary.