Improving Communication Skills

communicationNapoleon said, “We rule the world by our words.” If this is so, we must be aware of the words we say, the language we use, and the stories we tell. We are what we talk about all day long. Do you use words of criticism or praise? Is your conversation negative or positive? Are you trying to be right, or trying to be kind and generous?  What about the words we say to ourselves? How does that language affect our self- image and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us? As human beings, we spend 95 percent of our time talking to ourselves, and only 5 percent is left for listening. No wonder communication is so difficult. But if we are spending most of our time conversing with ourselves, what are we saying? Here are some strategies for improving communication skills.

My daughter Natalie, when she was 9 years old, had a hard time with this internal voice. It was like a radio that constantly played negative tunes: I’m not pretty; nobody likes me; I have no friends; I’m not smart; other kids have it better than me. All of these words, this language, were creating a great deal of sadness in her little life. So we sat down and wrote down all the negative statements, and then wrote out statements that were the opposite. We called it “Natalie’s Little Chatter Box.” She agreed to read them every morning when she woke up and every evening before bed. As she got older she put them on cassette and played them. This had a wonderful impact on her self-concept, and she brought those positive statements with her into her teens. She’d like to share her chatterbox with you.

  • I am helpful to others.
  • I am filled with good feelings.
  • I do the best that I can.
  • I listen and I learn.
  • I don’t care about what other people say, just about what I know to be true.
  • Everything I need to know is inside of me.
  • Whatever happens in life, I can handle it.
  • I am sensitive.
  • I am loving and caring for others.
  • I choose to be happy.
  • My self-esteem is growing every day.
  • I have so much to give.
  • I am a responsible human being.

So, we can rule our own inner world with our words — it is a choice. Therefore, as we can improve our inner dialog (intrapersonal), we can improve our outer dialog (interpersonal). True communication begins when we can turn off our internal chatterbox and truly listen. Bob Conklin says, “There are no such thing as
uninteresting people, only disinterested listeners.” Listening, being “all ears,” is a true gift that we can give one another.

You can use the four “A’s” of listening to expand your communication:

  • Acknowledge that you have heard what has been said by repeating back or with a comment or nod.
  • Ask for more information.
  • Align yourself either with all they have said or with the parts you can agree with.
  • Add you own views on the topic.

So, who do you think you are as a communicator? Do you choose your words wisely? What do you say to others and to yourself? Can you listen to the words of
others and acknowledge that they have a say as well? We, as listeners, need to break down communication filters and judgments to truly hear what others are
saying. And we can be kind enough not to add negative sentences to the vocabulary of another’s mental chatterbox.

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