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Strategies for Improving Your Communication Skills

communication word on paper

Communication is the key to making any relationship work. Failing to communicate effectively leads to misunderstandings, distancing, and feelings of resentment. Good communication is essential to building healthy relationships and better understanding.

Honest, open communication is the only street that leads us into the real world.

We then begin to grow as never before.

And once we are on this road, happiness cannot be far away.

John Joseph Powel

Most Common Communication Mistakes

1. Thinking of what you want to say next instead of listening.

2. Let emotional language drive the conversation.

3. Get defensive and try to prove your point.

4. Suppressing feelings about something to avoid conflict

5. Try to fix someone's problem, assuming you know what they need.

6. Not sharing enough and stonewalling.

7. Talk over each other or not give space to talk.

Other Critical Communication Pitfalls

  • Trying mind-reading, "I know what you are thinking."

  • Jumping to assumptions: "I already know." 

  • Minimising others' experience: "That's nothing; what I had to do was…." 

  • Dismissing events' impact on someone: "You'll get over this." 

  • Interrogating: "Why did you do this?!" 

two people communicating

We never listen when we are eager to speak.

Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Overcoming Solution Blockers.

  • Focusing on proving that you are right with statements like "You did this wrong." Instead, discuss your contributions to the issue: "I recognise that I didn't say earlier what I expected."

  • Telling someone how things should be done by criticising the result. Instead, clarify expectations: "I was expecting ...." and recognise that "your way" may differ from others. 

  • Negating the other person's experience with statements such as: "None else reacts like this," In this instance, your perspective is personal. Instead, take the time and ask them to discuss how they experienced the event: "I was not expecting such a reaction. What is your understanding of what happened?"

  • Not staying focused on the current issue and bringing up things from the past: "This is just like two years ago". Instead, remain focused on the current topic and find solutions for both: "Although I did expect a different outcome, I think we can work on that and try to find a solution."

  • Labelling the person: "This shows how insensitive you are." It's more helpful to realise that you experienced the situation differently than the other. Others have the right to feel differently. Explore instead their perspective: "I realise we have different perspectives in this matter."

  • Using "you" repeatedly when expressing frustration. Try switching to "I" and "me" or "we", so instead of saying "You don't care about me", change to "I feel as if my needs are not taken into consideration."

  • The last big one is diminishing positive statements: "You're so smart, but..." These statements never achieve a positive outcome. No matter how genuinely you think this person is smart, the "but" will resonate louder than anything you said.

People communicating

To effectively communicate,

we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world

and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

Tony Robbins

Improving Your Communication Skills

Getting rid of old habits and improving communication is a long journey. Practising appropriate communication will help you develop reflection before talking and be more aware of your posture, tone and speed of voice. 

Practice with a friend or a mirror, or record yourself to understand how you sound. 

The following skills will help improve the quality of your communication style and your relationships.

  • Listen carefully to what the other says

  • Get curious and ask open questions

  • Work on self-awareness

  • Be open-minded

  • Build up your empathy

  • Express your feelings

Avoid “Why" Questions For Positive Communication

"Why" questions make one feel defensive. "Why" sounds accusatory, and no one likes that feeling. Here are some questions you may use to clarify events and understand the decision process. 

  1. I noticed… Could you tell me more about what is happening with you?

  2. What are you feeling about this situation now?

  3. What made you take that decision?

  4. How did you want this to go?

  5. How can I support you best?

  6. What do you think is the best way to handle the situation?

  7. Who else can help you with that?

  8. How can we avoid this from happening again?

Couple communicating watching the sunset

Communication leads to community, that is,

to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.

Rollo May

Final Thoughts

Good communication is essential for any healthy relationship and reduces the opportunity for misunderstandings. If you need help improving your communication skills in your relationship, reach out. Sometimes, old communication patterns need to be explored and adjusted.

When unpleasant feelings rule your day for too long, it's time to reach out. Remember that you don't have to face everything alone and find someone you trust to talk to.

When you need someone to talk to, a helpline, a support group, your GP or a counsellor can make the difference and offer support.

Subscribe to this website and get 15 minutes of free online consultations. 



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