Communication in our Everyday Life

Back-to-school jitters and how to handle them
Communicating effectively can be challenging for many of us—even in everyday situations, but especially in more emotional contexts that can require vulnerability or involve criticism. Here are some recommendations from Rachelle Honohan, LCSW, for becoming better communicators. 

Every day, we communicate.

Communication has been on my mind for the past few months. So much so that I have begun to think about how even driving can be communicative. After all, communication simply relies on “a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior” in order to relay information between individuals (Webster dictionary). But what can wordless signals between cars on the road teach us about communication between one another?

Some drivers are more communicative than others. While some people use their blinkers, others—well—don’t. I wish there was a way to research people who choose not to use their blinker and those that do. I bet those decisions could reveal something about the driver’s communication style.

There have been studies done on the different types of communicators: most studies study whether people communicate verbally or nonverbally, though, not necessarily whether they communicate. Communication is essential to allow others to understand us and what we are feeling and thinking. But if we choose not to communicate, what are we telling others around us? It causes others to make their best guess about what we are feeling, or thinking, and it opens the door to a lot of miscommunication. Much like in the car, if one doesn’t communicate, wrecks can happen. “Wrecks” also occur in our relationships when we don’t communicate.

Our first style of communication as an infant is crying. When we cry, others around us try to figure out what is wrong. We also communicate non-verbally with smiles, laughs, and grunts—among many other facial expressions. As adults, we don’t always realize how often and how much we communicate, but wordless smiles and laughs—communication—can meet real relational needs. It is important to note that being non-verbal is also a form of communication.

Nowadays, there are so many ways to communicate. As ever, we continue to communicate verbally, eye-to-eye; we communicate through written messages over text, email, or even snail mail. And more recently, we communicate digitally through phone calls or video chats. Social media, of course, is a complex evolution of our digital communication as well.

Yet, we may struggle to communicate; or we may be in relation with others who struggle to communicate. This can be difficult. It can be hard to be vulnerable, or to accept criticism. But we should look at these situations as opportunities to grow as communicators. When we communicate well, everyone benefits.

We are told in James 1:19 – Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…

This is essential. But how do we work to understand this and put it into practice?

In therapy, there is definitely a lot of communication. Not just talking, though. Therapy is also about connecting with one another through listening, through eye contact, through soft spoken words, and through compassion, grace, and support. Therapists strive to help everyone come to a place where people can be better communicators. These are only a few tools used to help others:

Listening – We must stop and hear what people are saying when they express themselves. It is about reflecting to them what was heard, and validating what was said. If we don’t listen, we cannot provide the support they are needing.

Eye Contact – Asking this person to let us see their eyes (in a caring manner), especially when they are upset, shows this person we care and want to listen. It is not about staring them down to make them feel bad; it is a look with compassion. Yes, there can be conversations (especially with teens!) where forcing eye-contact is the last thing we want to do. However, when our kids are having a difficult time, it is important to sit with them, look at them, and let them know we’re there for them without a phone in our hand.

Soft Spoken Words – Speaking softly can be a challenge at times. Reactions are a part of us. And often, we overreact. As we work to listen and have eye contact, we also must work to take a deep breath and speak softly to the person talking to us, especially when they are hurting.

Proverbs 15:1 tells us, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Several months ago, I purchased a wooden sign for me to use in my car. On one side it says “Thank You” and the other side says “Sorry”. My children get embarrassed when I use it. I say, if I bring a smile to someone, that is all that matters. It is another way to communicate, but one I find unique and encouraging. So, let’s all work harder at communicating better, even if it’s through our blinker with a stranger in another car.

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 
1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Rachelle Honohan, Austin child and adolescent counselor
Rachelle has been with ALCS since 2017. and counsels clients from our North Austin location. She works with children and adolescents and their families to help them understand behaviors, improve communication, and establish boundaries within relationships. For more information about Rachelle's practice, click here. To set up an appointment with Rachelle or another therapist in our office, call us today!