Lastenia Francis, LMFT
Flexibility in Communication
Do you ever feel like you are going in circles when you are communicating? As if you are talking but you don’t seem to be going anywhere? Do you feel that sometimes when you talk to your partner one or both of you add to the escalation rather than actually being able to solve the issues?
If you do, then maybe you’re not being flexible in the way you communicate with others. Interpersonal flexibility is the ability to change the way you communicate according to the person, situation and interaction. The more flexible you are in a situation is the wider your choices you have when considering what to communicate in the various situations that are presented.
Flexibility in communication is imperative to the building and maintaining of rapport with any person you are communicating with. Consider communication as a transactional process. One person can affect he other’s response. As a result, you wouldn’t want two angry people going at it in a conversation because it probably wouldn’t end well. You may need someone who is more of a listener in the conversation while the other may need to just talk. Being a listener is not a problem if you are aware of your intention. Is your purpose of a listener to act as a supportive ear? Or is the purpose to gather all the information you have to create a rebuttal to the information that was given?
Other aspects of communication include one’s ability to be empathetic towards the person you are communicating with. In every conversation you have, you should always be prepared to understand the other’s perspective and their behavioral style. This is very important to be able to then convey the message you’d like to convey to the other person. Without this, there is no room for the other person in the conversation. That wouldn’t be much of a conversation if you weren’t ready to hear the other person out.
Communicating also means your ability to recognize your own emotions in the conversation you are having. Self-regulating during a conversation is imperative to facilitating a meaningful conversation. This may mean that you need to come take a breather and come back to the conversation later when you are in a better space to hear the other person. Otherwise, you may just be react based on your emotions, rather than respond on the information that is being presented. Reactivity reduces the opportunities to be flexible and cognizant of the context, changes, differences and behavioral indicators being displayed in a conversation.
How to get more flexible:
Recognize that although, similar at times, people and situations are not exactly alike. Think about the person you are talking to before you react to the situation. For example, is the person you are talking to the one who is terrified of having a child or is it the one who is overjoyed to have a child. If it is the one who is terrified about having a child, it may be inappropriate to say “congratulations”. Rather, the more appropriate response might be to assess how they are dealing with this news.
There is always a context to communication. Ask yourself, what is the context of the conversation and how might what you say or do influence your messages. Think about the context of the conversation, if the context is one that is joyous, then communicate in the confines of that. For example, if you find out that your spouse who is excited to start school, got into school, treat it as an amazing thing. However, if you notice that their body language is contrary to excitement, react based on that context.
There is constant change in people and things. Just as one’s mood may change based on a circumstance, or a person’s level of maturity may change over time, is the same way, you should take that into consideration when communicating. Your spouse may have made a mistake in the past, but they may have learned a different way to handling a similar situation a year later. This is where you should give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Treat the situation like a new one. Communicate based on the facts presented in the specific situation, not holding every incident they’ve had years prior.
Every situation calls for different options in communicating. Those options can determine the outcome of what might happen as a result of the way you communicate. Consider the fact that you always have the choice to add or take away from a conversation based on what you say. Consider, what is your goal when you are communicating. Is it to be heard, understood or to have conflict? From those different outcomes, do you think you may change how and what you communicate?
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