Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes one feel as you might when a drowning man holds unto you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.
Our personal communication style is a direct reflection of our own objectives regarding other people and the skills we have learned in our lives. Pressure might be exciting in romantic interactions or a complete disaster when asking for directions to a local cafe. You can never say that someone is a good communicator without knowing this person’s real objective. You can say, however, that someone has good communication skills or knows what he wants.
This article is not so much about techniques, but more about realizing what is needed in which situation. This difference is hugely important because just having good communication skills is just half of the equation. You can still feel like getting nowhere if you’ve never learned the how and the why of talking to people effectively.
Let me give you an example of communication going wrong:
You smile a lot and are very nice to people in general. One thing that really bothers you in your life is that you always spend hours listening to people’s stories and complaints even though you don’t really like it. The good thing in this scenario is that your skills allow you to have an extended conversation with someone, but you haven’t figured out yet, that calmly expressing your disinterest would be much more aligned with your goals.
Here’s another one:
You know exactly that the guy from work would be perfect for you, but every time you get into a conversation with him, awkward pauses tend to creep in. There are weird looks, nervous gestures and a quick good-bye at the end. You know what your goal is but you don’t have the skills to get there.
Knowing what you want is the first step, here are some examples:
- People you don’t like should not talk to you too much, but also not feel repulsed by you.
- People you like should always feel open to talk to you in every situation.
- If you find a stranger particularly interesting, they shouldn’t feel threatened by you, but find you likable.
- If you don’t have time, people should understand that, but not feel hurt by it.
This is just a short list and there can be many other goals. The way to get to them is all about having the right strategy. Understanding what it means to feel emotional pressure and inflexibility is absolutely key for that. Kyuzo Mifune was a Judo practitioner who was said to be like an empty jacket when trying to grab him because he gave his opponent no solid resistance to hold on to. This is what mastery looks like in communication as well. If you are sensitive to certain subjects or opinions then the other person will feel that. They will intuitively navigate around your inflexibility and this will take them some effort. You probably know someone in your life who is extremely nervous or has a very loose temper. They are difficult to talk with and as a result, tend to end up surrounded by people who are just like them. Needless to say, you don’t want to be that person.
How to become flexible and disarming:
- Be in your own world. If you decide to paint your face pink, then that’s the new norm. You are amused by people’s reactions, but never defensive or apologetic.
- First of all, never take anything personally. What other people think about you is at best excellent feedback and at worst entirely unimportant. To get there, consider starting with some kind of meditation practice. You will find out just how much your own opinion of yourself counts, as opposed to one’s made by other people.
- If you smile or are kind to other people, don’t expect anything in return, even being liked by others. Kindness must be self-sufficient or it will seem inauthentic or needy.
- When you talk to someone and have no real agenda, don’t try to small talk, but be calm and listen to what they have to say. The emotional content of your communication will decide how at ease the other person will be. Don’t stare, have a soft and scanning look on your face. If you are bored, don’t be afraid to show that.
- Never think about your own inadequacies or faults while communicating with other people. This is not their problem. Every communication is based on emotions and entirely in the now.
There are of course many exceptions like intense romantic interactions, aggressive confrontations or authoritative discussions. But this template improves 90% of all the daily interactions we have, including the one’s with spouses, coworkers and especially the strangers we meet.
My post on goal setting will help with finding out what you want if you are unclear in that area. I will expand on this topic in a following post. All the best and please leave some comments below.