Every New Year, people around the world make resolutions; sweeping statements promising big changes that are, realistically, unachievable and lead to disappointment.
As we approach the end of 2017, and with the promise of a new year opening up ahead of you, why not endeavour to make 2018 the year you take positive, achievable, steps towards better, more authentic, communication?
Here, I present some ideas for you to ruminate on in the closing weeks of the year: chew them up, swallow the ones you like, and make them your taste of change for things to come.
We all have thoughts which may be easier to leave unsaid because they are a bit too tricky: they might shake the status quo, or make life more difficult.
As a result we often keep quiet, not saying what we really feel. But this can be unhealthy, inauthentic, and actually prevent really great things happening that arise out of being honest.
And let’s be clear, finding the courage to be honest and share your more difficult thoughts with another person, whether in a work or personal context, can be scary, but it can also be transformative.
It can make a stale relationship breathe again, it can free you up for new opportunities, and it can feel fantastic.
So, here are some tips you can use to help you be more authentic in 2018. They are designed to help you say what you really think in a constructive, positive way.
1. Work Out What You Really Think About The Thing
It may sound obvious, but the first tip is to spend some time mapping out what you think. If you’re dealing with a relationship, romantic or otherwise, be honest with yourself – have you had enough, or are you totally committed but find several things concerning?
At work,do you think your new employee could be good, but take issue with their attitude or approach? Whatever it is, get the issue crystal clear in your head before you start.
One way to hunt it down is to sniff out the emotion. When you get close, there will be discomfort around it, and that’s a sure sign that something isn’t sitting well with you.
2. Know That Honesty In A Relationship
This is often far more respectful, than lying to be kind. When we are honest with another person, we are showing the other person that we respect them, that we believe they are strong enough to know how we really feel.
When we lie to another person, we are moving the relationship away from authenticity, because it is disconnected from the truth of who we are.
It’s very difficult to have true and meaningful connections when there are lies flying around.
So next time you want to smudge over the truth, or not admit how you really feel, take a moment to ask yourself if that is the right route for you and your relationship. And if you respect someone and yourself, think again about how to approach it.
3. When You Are Ready To Be Honest, Be Kind
It’s a good idea to prepare what you are going to say beforehand.
If you have spent a bit of time understanding what is going on for you, why you are feeling the way that you are, then you will be more likely to be able to articulate it without blame or attack.
Rather than thinking the other person has done something wrong, shift to the peaceful perspective, which is simply to state that whatever is happening is not working for you, because of who you are and the values that you have.
Whatever the other person is doing or not doing, is also because of who they are and the values they have.
Finding courage to say those difficult things is much easier when you have taken the time to be empathetic of what is going on for them, and of yourself, and can then say what you feel without blame or accusation, but instead taking responsibility for your emotions.
In terms of language, swap‘you did…’ for ‘I feel…’ and ‘you are…’ for ‘I feel like you are…’ this will make a huge difference.
Don’t accuse, try not to say a lot of ‘you’ and instead explain what actually happened to make you feel the way you feel. Don’t soften the blow, or sweeten the deal, but stay honest.
Again, and I cannot stress this enough, make sure you take responsibility for your part, and don’t lay blame at their door.
4. Let Your Non-Verbal Communication Be Grounded and Calm
When you are clear on the issue, how you feel about it and what you are responsible for, then it’s time to speak to the other person. Make eye contact and speak calmly. If there is emotion around it what you are saying, try to not let your voice get too loud or speak too fast.
Deliver your ideas, pausing and looking at the person to make sure they are with you, and know that you are being honest rather than attacking. Make sure your arms are not crossed (which can seem defensive) and that you are relaxed in posture rather than uptight.
They will pick all of this up!
Finally, it may seem obvious, but giving yourself time to breathe steadily is really useful here!
The results of this sort of honest, authentic communication with another person are that both of you will feel the weight of the accumulated issues in your relationship lessen.
They will feel respected, and know you see them as an equal. It will give you both room to breathe, and for them to say what they feel, responding authentically to whatever you have said. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
In my experience, working with clients on all aspects of their communication both personal and professional, if one’s feelings can be articulated with responsibility and sensitivity, without accusation or anger, then the results can be phenomenal.
Make 2018 the year you become an honest, authentic communicator.
As a New Year’s resolution, I can’t think of anything that will have more positive impact on so many aspects of your life.