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Speak Your Mind: The Art Of Successful Communication

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

We all know how important communication is and we also know how difficult it is. After all from what we say and how we say it, to the messages conveyed by our facial expressions and body language we could be sending off the wrong vibes even without meaning to.

Personally, non-verbal communication is one of my biggest pet peeves, because it’s not WHAT people say that can be “offensive” but rather than what they DON’T say that can be questionable.

People who “tell it like it is” are easy to understand, get along with, or avoid all together, but those who “hide” behind words and/or conflicting gestures can often leave you guessing, never fully knowing what they mean or where you stand.

In fact, talking to people who speak but don’t necessarily say much can leave you feeling “angry” confused, frustrated and irritated, especially if you know exactly what YOU were going to say, how and the anticipated message (your expected to convey) and response (you were bracing or hoping for).

The trouble not experts with communication is that while it seems like a skill that should come naturally, after all most of us have been talking most of our lives, the older we get, the more we prove that practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect. In an effort to “sugarcoat” our message/feelings, remain neutral, non-offensive, politically correct, professional, positive, encouraging, and I’m sure there’s others I’ve left out, we mince our words and really don’t know how to express ourselves toward others.

While we know we have to or should speak up, we don’t want to alienate anyone nor do we want to come across as pushy or aggressive.

So, not only do we have to wait for the right timing, but take into account our words (which ones we choose to use), our tone, body language and even posture. In fact, simply raising your voice or your eyebrows can impact the way your message is interpreted or received.

Telling someone that there’s a need to talk, even if what you have to say, carries a “negative” connotation, and if you present the statement in a serene and serious tone, it simply makes matters worse. Regardless of what you have to say to the other party, its best not to put them on the defensive but rather easing their mind and concerns. Experts suggest relaxing your jaw and your voice prior to speaking, and inevitably changing the tone of the entire conversation (to follow).

Body language, stance, etc. can also convey clear signals. Standing far apart, folding your arms, rolling your eyes, or looking away are all signals that you are disinterested and just don’t care. In fact, it can be quite offending and insulting to the other person who is making an earnest effort to communicate. It may even be signaling (to him or her) that he or she is not worth it and that you could care less about his/her feelings, what’s important to him/her and what he or she has to exchange or say. Even if the words coming out of your mouth are “positive” and “reaffirming” most of us are more than capable of reading between the lines.

So, if you want to make a good impression keep your body and tone in check. Make sure you keep both neutral with arms loose at your sides, maintaining eye contact and take it easy on the facial gestures and body shrugs.

Also, make sure you are careful about the words you choose. Remember, certain words have a stronger or more abrasive interpretation than others and everyone has their own understanding of what they mean. You may, suggest experts clarify in your mind how you’d interpret the sentence or word based on how you’ve phrased or plan on phrasing it. Make sure your meaning is first and foremost clear to you. Then, you may want to run it by a close friend or family member to see how the interpret it.

And, experts suggest that you proceed with caution about stating exactly what you want and need. Keep in mind that while assertiveness is often commended, be forthright can also be misconstrued as aggressive and forceful, and recommend keeping a calm and cool composure while you are also being very clear.

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