Better verbal communication skills in your relationships: How to talk it out in a helpful way

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You’re a social creature and learning better verbal communication skills in your relationships is a healthy way to improve your well-being daily. 

Do you find yourself getting into arguments with people in your life? Do you feel silenced in your relationships? Whether you’re at work or home, situations often arise in which using constructive and expressive communication can avoid or resolve conflict

It’s not easy to talk about your feelings

In relationships, it’s often really hard to communicate your feelings without coming across as accusatory – especially when the emotions you’re trying to talk about are painful and leave you feeling vulnerable.

Arguments cause stress and conflict

The problem is that when you try to make the other person understand how you feel by telling them what they did wrong or how much they hurt you, they’re more likely to become defensive instead of apologetic and the situation can quickly escalate into an argument. Learning better verbal communication skills in your relationships reduces stress and conflict in your life.

Constructive communication is a skill

So how can you tell someone how you are feeling in a constructive way? Start by pausing to check in with yourself. Then apply this tried and trusted technique of expressive communication that’s been useful to many of my clients, so give it a try, Booby!

Blue Footed Booby Success Formula: How to use better verbal communication skills in your relationships

1. Start with a fact, something that cannot be argued: 

“When you said/did/didn’t do (that thing which is a fact) ….”

2. Tell them how you felt – keeping in mind that a feeling/emotion is something that can be seen on your face, it’s not something you’re thinking.: 

“I felt (angry, sad, hurt, defenceless, frustrated, irritated, confused, miserable, ashamed, frightened, lost, hopeless, etc…)”

3. Tell them what you need. 

“I need….” be honest here

4. Then make a direct request:

“Please would you….” what do you want them to do.

A. Example of what NOT to say

“When you didn’t bother to stop at the shops on the way home, it made me feel like you don’t care about me. I need you to try harder! Please make more of an effort!”

  1. You don’t know why they didn’t stop at the shops, you’re assuming that they didn’t bother. This immediately gives them room to argue about the reason they didn’t stop at the shop, which isn’t the point. 
  2. You’re telling them that they “made” you feel something. But you are responsible for your own internal world, other people can’t actually “make” you feel anything. This statement gives away your power. Also, when you say “it made me feel like you don’t care about me” – that is not an emotion that can show on your face, it’s a thought and it’s also an indirect accusation.
  3. When you say “I need you to try harder” – that is not a need. That’s another assumption on your part – that they didn’t try or didn’t try hard enough. This statement is likely to make the other person feel super defensive. 
  4. “Please make more of an effort!” Again, this statement will leave the other person feeling guilty or defensive or angry or misunderstood, and maybe give them a reason to counterattack.

B. Example of better verbal communication skills in your relationships

“When you didn’t get the shopping I asked you to get, I felt angry and upset. I need to know what’s going on from your side. Please will you follow through next time, or explain to me what happened so I can understand.

  1. They didn’t get the shopping and this is a fact that the other person can’t argue with.
  2. You felt the way you felt and no one can argue with your subjective experience, rather, you are explaining to the other person how something they did had an impact on you. There is no accusation here, so the other person is more likely to be able to hear and process what you’re saying. 
  3. You’re expressing a true need, and you always have a right to express that.
  4. You’re making a reasonable, clear and understandable request for a specific change in their behaviour – either do the thing or let you know what’s going on if they don’t do it.