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I’m sure you’ve heard it before: Communication is key. Unfortunately,  many of us have adopted some pretty nasty habits when it comes to communicating with others. 

Any breakdown in communication can result in a chain-reaction of chaos and overwhelm. Mixed messages can mean missing back to school night, being late to sporting events, wrong items being purchased from the grocery store, missed homework and work assignments, and the list goes on.

“Any change that comes about in your life will be primarily because of your own efforts”

― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--And Your Life​ Tweet

Identifying these breakdowns as they are happening is an important first step towards improving communication, and inviting a calmer state of flow, rather than chaos into each day.

1. Speak clearly and in a calm tone.

Ensure that you are clear to the person you are speaking to, and alternately, if they are not speaking clearly, request clarification.

If there is any uncertainty that your message was received, confirm by simply asking!

A calmer tone is more likely to be understood better the first time, and less likely to be tuned out, so take a deep breath, be mindful of your tone and clearly communicate your message.

 

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2. Be Present

Presence during conversations may be the single most important factor in the efficacy of communication. To truly take in what is being said to you, it is so very important to remain fully present during the exchange.

Avoid distractions.

Listen intently to the words being spoken, without trying to formulate your next response.

If you are thinking about what you are going to say next, or are distracted by something else going on, there is no way that you can fully process what is being conveyed to you, and there is a very good chance that you will miss something that was said.

Be Presnt Mindfulness quote

3. Avoid Interruptions

Anyone with Children knows exactly what frequent interruptions are.

Children especially, get excited and can have difficulty controlling their impulse to blurt out whatever it is that is on their minds. In all reality, there are many adults that suffer from the same impulsivity. Interruptions are communication killers. When you interrupt someone, you are derailing their train of thought and diminishing whatever message they are trying to convey.

Think about a time when you were interrupted? It didn’t feel very good, did it? It may have even lead to some frustrations or unsavory feelings towards the interrupter. When negative emotions become entangled in communication, it can lead to even more disarray and overwhelm.

4. Learn to let go of Expectations, and Avoid Assumptions

2 common causes of negative emotions being sprinkled throughout our communication efforts are Assumptions and Expectations.

Assumptions often lead to communication gaps that open the door to chaos and overwhelm.

Some examples of assumptions include:

  • Assuming your teenager was listening to whatever you shouted to them as they were walking out the door for school.
  • Assuming that your spouse just knows to pick up the dry cleaning
  • Assuming that your middle schooler doesn’t have any projects due tomorrow at school.

Tied in with assumptions are expectations.

Expectations, in many instances, may even be causation for assumptions. After all, when you are expecting something from someone or something, that would indicate that you were assuming that they would deliver on some level.

Some examples of expectations could be:

  • Expecting your kid to know your preferred method of loading the dishwasher.
  • Expecting your toddler sit nicely and not throw food all over the place (duh)
  • Expecting your spouse know which entrance to pick your daughter up from band practice if they have never actually done this before.

Unmet assumptions and expectations often lead to disappointment, frustration and of course more chaos and overwhelm. Luckily these things can be avoided when we shift our focus to clarity and presence during exchanges of information.

“Attention leads to connection, connection to regulation, regulation to order, and order to ease (as opposed to dis-ease), or, more colloquially, to health.”

5. Respond rather than react

Responding rather than reacting will open the door to constructive and productive interactions. Pausing before responding curtails the chaos of unnecessary, ineffective, melodramatic or explosive reactions.

Take a Pause, breathe (more than once if you need to) and then respond in a constructive, kind, true, timely, and well-intended manner. Remember, not everything requires an immediate reaction, silence is golden and can actually be quite helpful when trying to engage in a healthy, productive dialogue.

6. Implement a Central Communication Hub for friends/family/co-workers

Finally, oftentimes families may lack a central communication HUB for all to see and update as needed.

A central communication HUB Is a powerful tool for keeping everyone on the same page, facilitating more organization and deterring mixed messages.

You may have a similar system at work to keep everyone on task and productive.

This is an extremely effective method of ensuring that everyone’s needs are met, at the time and place that they need to be met.

Also, having the whole family partake in reporting their needs/events/requests to a designated area is also a great way to build accountability.

Some ideas for a central communication HUB are:

I have created a short video to show you have to copy the board that I have created for you as well as some tips on how to use the board to effectively communicate with and organize your family.

  • -and finally- phone reminders. I have several alarms set throughout my day, from waking up, to letting me know a few minutes before busses are coming, to reminders about my business. I even have a phone reminder set to remind me to update my calendars/board.

Some of these suggestions may sound wild right now, but once you get in this groove, and people are communicating clearly and you have some flow in your day, the overwhelm quickly melts away.

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