Coping technique: Communication (speaking)

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Are you speaking the same language as the person you’re speaking to? This is more than national tongues. Do you and the other person mean the same thing when you use the same words? Consider a phrase as familiar as, “I love you.” This can mean what it says, but can as well indicate “Don’t bother me,” “Please make me feel better” or “Don’t be angry.”
  2. Therefore be aware of who you’re communicating with. Many of us fall into one of two categories, those interested in solving problems and those interested in process and consensus. Which best describes you? And which best describes the person with whom you’re communicating? A problem-solver communicating to a processor might think of tailoring what they say to the processor’s orientation, including more about feeling or working together.
  3. Consider ahead of time what it is you want to say. Are you making a request? Describing your responses? Telling a story? Making a statement about your values?
  4. Be aware of your tone of voice, facial expression, gestures and body language as you speak. Try to avoid being accusatory, condescending or hostile, knowing that these will decrease the effectiveness of your communication. Remember that when we feel threatened we fight, flee, hide or freeze, and none of these stances support clear communication.
  5. If possible face the person you’re speaking to. Again if possible avoid crossing your arms when speaking.
  6. Eye contact is important in communication. But while too little eye contact suggests that you’re not interested in the person you’re speaking to, too much (especially if the other person is responding with anger or fear) can seem confrontational. One way to effectively maintain appropriate eye contact while speaking is to briefly look away to the side every five seconds or so. If you’re speaking to a group of people it can be effective to make eye contact with one person with each sentence, so that the entire group is engaged.
  7. Present one topic to be addressed. Avoid adding multiple topics or old grievances as you go.
  8. Assertiveness means standing up for your rights without disregarding the rights of others. Rights include being treated with respect, being able to say no or to change your mind, to have feelings and to express them in ways that don’t violate the other person’s dignity. Assertive (as opposed to angry) communication consists of using I statements. Rather than telling your conversant what they’re thinking, feeling, doing or intending, focus on and speak from your own experience.
  9. Consider keeping your statements brief so that the other person is better able to take them in. Short, simple and straightforward statements are easiest to keep clear.
  10. Notice how the person to whom you’re speaking is responding. If their responses seem disconnected from what you’re trying to communicate—for instance, you’re talking about a financial issue and you notice that they’re beginning to look fearful—pause and ask them what they’re hearing. If what they describe hearing is something different from what you’re trying to communicate, acknowledge and validate their responses. This doesn’t mean that you agree with them, just that you’ve heard what they said and that you can see the sense of it. Then clarify your position.
  11. Timing can be essential to communication. Is the person to whom you want to speak available at this moment? Or is now not the best time? If they’re angry, busy, distracted it might be better to choose another time. Also is there enough time to present everything that you want to, and to allow time for the other person’s response? Initiating what could turn into a lengthy conversation while driving to a social engagement might not work out well.
  12. Timing in regards to yourself might include assessing how you’re feeling. If you’re angry or tired or otherwise triggered this might not be the best time to initiate communication.