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17 Tactics to Drastically Improve Communication in Relationships
You’re talented, you have great ideas and you’re hard working, but you’re often unrecognized, misunderstood and taken for granted.
Whether it’s in your personal or work relationships, you find yourself frustrated at how often people can misinterpret what you have to say.
If only there was something people could do to read your mind and feel your emotions. Right?
Sorry. While something like this doesn’t exist there is the next best thing, which is to take some simple strategies to improve your communication in relationships.
Why communication fails
The amygdala, which is also known as the“lizard brain”is an almond shaped part of your brain that’s is constantly on the lookout for anything that may be harmful to you. It basically is concerned for your survival.
And while it looks out for your physical survival such as in moments where there’s a rattlesnake in your path during a hike, it also looks out for your emotional survival.
This is why when someone says something that offends you, it triggers your amygdala and you become defensive as a result. It becomes this attack and defend battle between the two of you.
And as I’m sure you’ve experienced, when you are defensive during a conversation, nothing usually ends up getting resolved. The damage is done, feelings are hurt, and the relationship starts to become broken.
But here’s the thing:
In order to improve your communication, you must first learn how to help people feel safe to talk with you by implementing ways to calm their amygdalas in order to help them be open to having genuine conversations.
Tactics to improve communication in relationships
Below are 17 ways you can help improve your communication in relationships to cultivate safe spaces, feel more connected and strengthen your bonds.
Note: While I use the word “partner” to refer to the person you are communicating with, these techniques apply to all kinds of relationship whether it’s meeting someone new, an acquaintance or a long-time friend.
1. Show your hands
According to Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the bookCaptivate,eye tracking studies have shown that the first thing people actually look at when meeting someone new are their hands.
While most would think it’s the eyes, mouth or face, the reason why we first look at the hands is to quickly check if we are physically safe with the person.
“The reason for [checking the hands] is because of something we are not consciously aware of, which is when we can’t see someone’s hands the fear part of our amygdala begins to activate.” -Vanessa Van Edwards
Van Edwards shared some fascinating research that showed when defendants put their hands in their lap or their pockets where jurors can’t see them, jurors rate those defendants as more sneaky, untrustworthy and difficult to get along with.
Having your hands visible is simply as practical as showing the other person that you don’t have a weapon in your hands. So whether you are speaking publicly, meeting someone new, or catching up with a friend, be sure to show them.
What to do?
Refrain from putting your hands in your pockets or behind your back when speaking with someone. It may make them feel like you have something to hide.
Use your hands to acknowledge the other person whether it’s a wave or a handshake to help. This helps the person subconsciously put his/her guard down.
2. Touch each other
There’s a famous story about when Harvard professor, Nathan Fox, PhD stepped into a Romanian orphanage and noticed how silent it was in a room full of infants. He realized this was because the babies cries were not being responded to ever since their arrivals to the point that they gave up crying to express their needs.
The infants were always in their cribs except when they needed to be fed, bathed or changed.
One of the key components missing in the care of these children was touch. There was no daily interaction holding and snuggling these children to bond with them.
Evidence showed significant results of these children being much more developmentally delayed later in life compared to other children who grew up in loving families.
Science shows that human touch triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is the “love hormone”. It’s what helps you experience the feelings of trust, devotion and bonding. It has also been shown to help you decrease stress levels.
What to do?
Incorporate more appropriate physical interactions in your conversations. A simple handshake will do for people who you are not as close with.
For closer friends, you may want to incorporate more hugs. For your partners, feel free to incorporate more snuggling, massages and caressing.
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