This week’s Angel Word—our guiding inspiration for the week ahead—is communication.
In thinking about this word, I’ve realized there are so many different ways I can go in giving useful tips and advice in this area. Just to begin with, there are so many forms of communication. In college, I studied mass communication, which looks at spreading information through media to large segments of the population at the same time. There’s one-on-one communication. Non-verbal communication. Written communication. Visual communication.
What I decided to do is to share a bit of insight into my own interpersonal communication practices. This mostly includes emails, texts, handwritten notes, phone calls and in-person visits with family, friends and colleagues. They’re not hard-and-fast rules of communication, it’s just what’s worked for me…your mileage may vary.
1. Listen! Communication is a two-way street, not a monologue. Don’t spend the whole time someone else is talking trying to come up with your reply. Resist the urge to turn everything into an opportunity to share your experience with or knowledge on the subject. And definitely don’t try to trump the person you’re talking with (“You think you have it bad? I had it much worse!”)
2. Look people in the eye when you’re having an in-person conversation. Don’t look at the floor or around the room to see if something more interesting is going on.
3. Ask caring and engaging questions of the other person. Let them talk about themselves, rather than you dominating the conversation blabbering about yourself.
4. Be timely. Especially in online communication, don’t leave people hanging. If someone asks something of you, get back to them ASAP at least acknowledging that you received their inquiry or request. If you don’t have an answer at that moment, let them know you will get back to them within a certain time frame.
5. Watch your tone, especially in emails and texts. Realize when something’s gotten to the point where it’s more appropriate to call someone and let them hear your voice.
6. Don’t parse every word of an email or text you receive. If something rubs you the wrong way, pick up the phone and clear it up. Don’t make an assumption and let it fester out of control. Often someone has written something innocuous in haste and doesn’t mean what you think they mean.
7. Be aware of your nonverbal communication. How you’re sitting. Whether your arms are folded or your legs are crossed. Whether you’re inadvertently squinting or rolling your eyes or furrowing your brow or frowning.
8. Smile! Acknowledge and show interest in what the other person is saying, even with a small nod from time to time. Don’t just stare back blankly.
9. Be encouraging. Be sensitive. Be honest. Be polite. This is pretty much my motto.
10. Use humor when you can. I have a group text with my siblings where we exclusively use humor! Sometimes it’s lines from funny movies we all love, sometimes it’s just random song lyrics, sometimes it’s family in-jokes. Wouldn’t be funny or even understandable to most anyone else on the planet, but we crack each other up.
11. Be empathetic. Express genuine concern or support or excitement or sympathy or pride for what someone has shared with you.
12. Be positive, upbeat and helpful. If you’re feeling negative or angry, write your rant, save it overnight and read it again in the morning. If you still feel strongly, think about having a face-to-face conversation rather than putting it in writing. Once you hit that “send” button, it’s in print forever. And get in the habit of keeping the “To” field blank until you’re ready to send something. Even if you’ve hit “reply” to someone’s email, remember to delete all the recipients’ names until you’re sure you’re ready to send. You don’t want to accidentally fire off an unfinished or unedited reply to someone.
13. Be clear with words and language. Be respectful of grammar and spelling. Use “please” and “thank you.”
14. Like random acts of kindness, try random acts of communication with people you haven’t been in touch with in a while. Do you remember as a kid running to the mailbox to see if someone had sent you a card or letter? Times haven’t changed even though media has. Send someone a card or a handwritten note or an email or text out of the blue just to say hello. It’s cool to let someone know you’re thinking of them, and it’s nice to be remembered.
BONUS: 10 Ideas for Random Acts of Communication
“Just thinking of you and wanted to say hello.”
“Happy Wednesday! It’s been way too long. How have you been?”
“Sending you a hug today for no reason.”
“Thought of you today and smiled!”
“Just wanted to say I’m glad we’re friends.”
“You’ve been on my mind…I hope you are well!”
“Remember the day we [did this]? I’ve still never laughed so hard!”
“Just came across a picture from ____. That was an awesome day! Hope things are well with you.”
“Saw/ate/heard [this] and thought of you.”
“Heading to [somewhere] and thinking of you.”