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Kellyn Simpkin-Two Girls Sitting
Kellyn Simpkin-Two Girls Sitting
Kellyn Simpkin / Her Campus

8 Tips To Be a Better Communicator

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

Communication is essential in our everyday lives. We need it to interact and build relationships, but not everyone is a competent communicator. I know what you might be thinking: “Why do I need tips to communicate? I’ve been doing it since I learned how to speak.” Well, it’s not that simple. You might have been speaking you’re whole life, but you may or may not have been communicating effectively throughout your life. Why is it important? Because as human beings we have different needs we’re bound to meet such as safety, belonging, physical, and self-esteem needs. Part of being human is learning how to live in and as a community. To do so, we need to start by communicating and understanding each other better.

So, after getting a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Communication (no, mom and dad, it’s not English Literature, nor is it Communications) I’ve learned how human communication and interaction work, and I would love to share some tips and tricks for you guys to become better communicators and build strong and long-lasting relationships.

Note: Many of the concepts, definitions, and information, in general, you’ll read in this article have been learned and acquired from the book A First Look at Communication Theory by Em Griffin and have been modified (and summarized) with my input by yours truly to make it easy reading.

Communication is a Transactional Process

Communication has three models: linear, interactive, and transactional. Our focus in this article is the transactional model, which basically views communication as a two-way street. When it comes to building relationships and having effective conversations, we shouldn’t treat it as a conference where there’s a speaker talking and talking while you’re just there to listen, take notes, and provide some sort of nonverbal feedback, and that’s it.

Engaging in the transactional model means that the roles of the sender and receiver are constantly switching from one person to the other. We must take turns to speak and listen, instead of rambling all the time or allowing ourselves to be excluded from the conversation by just listening. Just as we want to be heard and understood, others want so too, and a good communicator not only knows that but provides it.

Listen Mindfully.

Whoosh! Ain’t that a hard one! How many of you have been in a conversation where the other person is constantly checking their phone (or on their phones already) and after you ask or say something, they’re like, “I’m sorry, what?” Boy, do we hate that? Oh, oh, and how many of you have been guilty of doing that to someone else? Yup! I hear ya!

Listening mindfully means that we are completely engaged in what the other person is saying. We’re not thinking about that text we’re eagerly waiting for, or about whether or not the likes and comments on the last photo we posted increased, or the many things we have to do. We’re not even thinking about what we want to say next. Nothing! We are present in the moment, listening, and waiting for our turn to speak. You’re investing time and energy in the conversation and, by doing so, you’re letting the other person know that they, and your relationship, are so important that you’re not paying attention to anything else going on elsewhere, but instead, you’re engaged in your moment together.

Be Aware of Perception.

Perception is the active process of creating meaning by selecting what we notice, organizing it in our heads by categories such as stereotypes, personal constructs, or prototypes, and then interpreting what we see in order to make sense out of it. 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re walking down a street full of people, but you notice one person. She has curly hair, has a couple of piercings, and maybe a few tattoos. She’s not wearing a bra and her clothes seem like second hand, thrifted, old, or overused. She’s also wearing a pair of Teva shoes and is carrying a bag that might be made locally. You immediately think she’s kind of a hippie because she “fits” the stereotype. We start making assumptions as a way of interpreting what you saw of her. That she must be a “peace and love” free spirit, for example. You get the picture. 

The thing with perception is that it determines what kind of interaction you will have with each person. So, keep that in mind.

Adjust your Language.

This is very important. Never think everyone is the same and that “this is how I speak, deal with it because I’m not going to change myself for anybody”. Well, this can end up being problematic. It’s not about changing who you are but adjusting your way of speaking with people so that you can have effective conversations and long-lasting relationships. It’s about taking other people into consideration. For example, I have a friend who would call me a specific noun, that is an insult depending on the context, and I didn’t like it. I gave him other options that I was okay with if he felt the need to call me by any other name than my own, as a friendly thing you know? He would get annoyed because he said that’s how he spoke and he calls everybody that. “Equally,” he would argue. I explained that, in fact, he didn’t. He wouldn’t call his mom, dad, professor, or boss that word or speak to them as he would to some of his friends. Why? Because with each person he has a different relationship and not everyone is everyone.

You talk and call people the way they allow you to speak to them and vice versa and it should be something established from the beginning. For that, it’s important to get to know someone. Through that process, you’ll also learn how to respect each other in a way you each individually feel respected, and you’ll get to know each other’s boundaries. Going back to my friend, it has been a work in progress because it’s a word that simply comes naturally and automatically to him. Now, he’s aware, so when he’s about to say it, he stops, and says “sorry” or laughs and says “I didn’t finish it.” He makes an effort because he cares about our relationship and I value and appreciate that.

Learn who people are, and, according to what you know, be yourself, but adjust your language to make the communication process an effective one where both could feel safe, respected, comfortable, and understood. 

Watch Your Tone and Choose Your Words Carefully.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “is not what you say, is how you say it”? Well…TRUE! Check this out. Let’s think about a “conversation” with our parents. How does this sound?

“Amanda!!! I’m so sick and tired of this! You never do anything, you always leave dirty dishes in the sink, you leave a mess whenever you come home! You don’t have a servant here! You’re a grown woman! Get your life together because this is UNACCEPTABLE!” And let’s leave out the inappropriate words that often come along moments like these for the sake of this article.

Okay, now, how about this?

“Amanda, can we talk for a second? It really bothers me that you don’t wash the dishes when you finish eating and that you leave your work stuff all over the place. We all live in this house and we should all make an effort to make it a clean and safe space for all of us. Please, clean up after yourself and maintain things organized. I will appreciate it.”

Come on!! Who would say no to that? If anything, guilt will take over us. Lol! See the difference between the choice of words and the tone? I know you’re reading, but don’t tell me you didn’t picture your mom or dad’s voice and face when doing so. I know, I know. That’s the power of being cautious of how you approach and handle situations. Be aware of it and take the time to process those thoughts and emotions to later translate them into words. 

Don’t Invalidate Other’s Opinions or Feelings.

Phrases like “You’re getting upset over something so stupid!” or “You’re making a big deal out of nothing” are examples of invalidating someone’s feelings. This can cause the other person to feel even more upset, misunderstood, unappreciated, and belittled.

Whatever the thing is, it might be small or silly to you, but they’re not your feelings or your situations. Part of our human qualities is learning how to be compassionate and empathetic. That means not putting yourself in someone’s shoes, but trying to understand the situation from the other person’s point of view. You can do so by asking them to help you understand, or by allowing them to vent and later saying comforting words that might help them. If there’s a moment where you realize you’ve invalidated someone’s feelings with anything you said or did, the best thing to do is to apologize and make an effort to understand. It’s an opportunity to manage the situation with a different approach that will show sensitivity, care, and will be highly valued. Not to mention, it will strengthen your relationship.

Develop Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence means learning how to control our emotions. Some people have a short temper and getting them to calm down results in an even bigger altercation. In a situation where things are heating up, it’s important to breathe in order to clear your head and allow your emotions and your thoughts to also clear up. In the heat of the moment, we can say and do things that can aggravate the situation or even ruin relationships. A smart course of action is to recognize and communicate to the other person that you’re not able to handle the conversation or situation at the moment and that you need to walk away to breathe, internalize your feelings, and think of the best way you can approach it in the near future. However, resolve the conflict as soon as you feel ready. Don’t feel it’s unimportant and that because you calmed down, you can just let it go. Many unresolved issues, no matter how small or silly they seem, can build up inside of you and there will come a time where you’ll explode and, suddenly, those “silly” things you let go of once, will come back and become very present at the moment of another altercation, which could have been avoided by communicating.

Be Patient.

Be patient with yourself because being a good communicator takes time, practice, desire, and intention. Be patient with others because they’re probably on the same journey as yourself. Also, because maybe they have not learned the tips you’ve just learned through this article. Trust me, sometimes you’ll get frustrated because you will be putting your greatest effort to be a good communicator and people won’t be about that life. In that case, lead by example, and don’t give up. Don’t give in. Push through and take it one step at a time with patience and perseverance, as I did and still am doing with the friend I told you about.

We might think we’re experts because we’ve been communicating with people since we learned to speak, but in reality, learning to be an effective and good communicator takes time and effort, which takes me to my last tip.

This information is not useful unless you put it into work. You will not be an effective communicator if you don’t practice. Along the way, you will make mistakes, because, now that you’ve acquired this information, you’ll be more aware of what you need to do. However, some of these things are new to you, and you need to give yourself time to slowly incorporate them in your everyday life. So, like I said, be patient with yourself, and from now on, put into practice these tips and notice how your communication skills and relationships will improve.

I believe in spreading light and positivity anywhere we find ourselves. I encourage self-love and in lifting our sisters up to be better, stronger, and more confident women. For that, I'm excited to be part of this platform that will allow me to voice my thoughts and share them with amazing ladies interested in starting conversations. Lots of love and positive vibes to everyone.