You’re A Terrible Communicator! True or False?

Recently an incident reminded me of something that irritates me like for “realz”. Actually, it’s more than an irritation …more like a psychotic loathing. Like a papercut from my credit card statement or dropping my peanut-butter-and-jam-sarmie face-down in my cat’s litterbox or messing Marmite all over my face and only realising five meetings and a date later – type of loathing. This psychotic loathing really wasn’t about the incident. It’s just that the incident reminded me of a time in my life where I was drowning in frustration and the thing I hate most… Amazing how this one little incident transported me back in time and irked me so badly that I needed to desperately pray in the middle of peak hour traffic, stop and just breathe (not hyperventilate) and chill something the vrek down – I don’t even know what.

After I chilled the fudge out (five Mississippi minutes later) – I tried to process what it was that upset me so. I realised I hate it when I am not “heard”. When I express something, share something and even instruct something and I feel the people I am sharing with are disregarding, disrespecting or not sensitively “hearing” what I am saying. I don’t mean disagreeing… I mean not understanding-hearing me or understanding-hearing me but disregarding me.

On the other end of the spectrum (it happened to be the same week), for a moment it felt like some tool stole all the sparkle and glitter in the world and as if the world lost music and happy thoughts (perhaps even chocolate). And this horrible scenario played out because a person didn’t know how to express themselves well; forget express well – every single time this person communicated, they were …well, rude and it just rubbed people up like an agro-porcupine-skunk-hybrid would. Offensive!

Within one week, the importance of good communication face-palmed me like a freight train. And so did the realisation that 1) People want to be heard. 2) People want to be respected. 3) Good communication takes practise, commitment and self-control.

So, here is a general guide drawn up from water-cooler/kitchen-counter talk, to test whether we (South Africans) are good communicators or not. Because nobody truly wants to be the person everyone moans about to spouses, colleagues, hairdressers, siblings, anyone who will listen…

#1 Mind Your P’s!

When we (South Africans) were little, mom would threaten to klap/smack us with a pap lepel/spoon, if we didn’t say hello, goodbye, please, thank you, ja and sometimes amen, when we were interacting with other adults, siblings, friends and particularly guests. So, why do some of us think it’s okay to write an email, WhatsApp, or any communication, or speak to others without saying hello, goodbye, please and thank you. To be a good communicator, these are mandatory.

Fun Self-Test:

A) I always say hello/good morning/good evening/ciao/howzit and please, ta, thank you or the like when speaking to people AND animals; whether writing or speaking.

B) I rarely greet people; hardly ever say thank you and never say please. I prefer being straight to the point when communicating.

C) I have never noticed or I am not sure.

#2 Pro Conflict

Being a good communicator means we need to know how to handle conflict like a pro. And that means that sometimes (even if it is cringeworthy) that we confront someone – without anger, attitude or ulterior motive. A note on the ulterior motive – if someone ticked us off for some reason and we suddenly see this person messed up, we don’t take this as an opportunity to engage in conflict. Conflict should be uplifting, authentic, transparent and always with the main goal of building relationships (not destroying them).

And one final thought on conflict – we should always refrain from being the p-word. People who are the p-word really don’t help build relationships and these p-people think they are hiding their anger and avoiding conflict. But they aren’t. The anger comes out in every nasty joke, barbed-comment and other sarcastic subtle ways… and for these reasons people hate p-word-people. So please don’t be passive-aggressive (p-word) people.

Fun Self-Test:

A) I don’t thrive on conflict but sometimes to build relationships it should occur. And I always engage in conflict when I am calm and rational.

B) Conflict is a great way for me to get all my frustration out. Any person will do and it’s best to get it all out on the table. Hashtag no filter. I love playing Devil’s advocate and thrive during arguements. 

C) I run away from conflict. Like a candle in the wind. If I hide long enough the conflict will eventually dissipate.

#3 H-Word

On the topic of words… a good communicator is an honest communicator. We need to be honest when we communicate with others. Please note “honest” doesn’t mean we get to be arrogantly forthright, tactless and familiar, or the glorified unsolicited advice-giver/ dimwit of the century. It does mean, we don’t tell lies.

Fun Self-Test:

A) I am always honest when communicating with others, even when it is difficult. But I am always sensitive when being honest and make sure it is the best situation and my place to broach the topic.

B) I love giving it straight to people and if they can’t handle it – shamepies. /I am willing to tell lies to get people to see the truth.

C) I tell lies to spare other’s feelings. Even if this means that I am preventing someone from growing.

#4 Listen

Unfortunately, we mostly only listen to respond but don’t listen to hear. It takes discipline for us to listen, to hear – especially when people like to include too many boring details in their stories. But still – we all know how genuinely lekker to our toes we feel when someone truly listens to us. So, we should be those ears that truly listen to what someone is saying.

Fun Self-Test:

A) I actively listen to what a person is saying to me and ask questions to clarify that I am “hearing” what they are saying correctly. I do this despite the amount of details the person is providing.

B) I hear to respond and to give advice. I often finish people’s sentences and use what they are saying to tell stories about me or my experiences.

C) I nod and pretend I am listening to people when they talk but actually, I am planning what’s for supper.

#5 Feedback

Good communication is difficult and so is growth. But we need to listen to how people describe us. If more than two people have mentioned that we suck at communication – we need to do something about it. If people say it’s not what we say but how we say it that makes us suck– we really need to think of a lasting strategy or professionally deal with issues. If people say we don’t listen, or we never give other’s the opportunity to express themselves – we should work on it. If more than two people are terrified of us – we need to think why and change how we communicate.

People who don’t work on their communication skills are isolated and more unpopular and unwelcome than a mascaraed eyelash poking into an eyeball. And sadly, these people are blissfully unaware of the effect they have on others. So, we truly should listen to the feedback we are given or ask someone close to us to be honest about where we are on the good/bad communication scale.

Fun Self-Test:

A) I always listen to the way people describe me and spend time reflecting on it; deciding whether it’s fair comments or not. If two completely different individuals describe me in a certain way that is negative, I investigate further and even use online resources or a coach/therapist/mentor to assist me.

B) People are often haters of me; I am often misunderstood because of my personality (I am just straightforward – I am who, I am) and I can’t help that most people can’t communicate at my level. I hardly ever think on feedback given to me. I take offence easily.

C) I shut down when people give me feedback so that I don’t get hurt. Sometimes, I immediately lash out; other times my eyes glaze over and I don’t take anything in.

#6 Be Real

There is nothing more authentic and attractive than a person who is real. A good communicator is always real, genuine and open. And this draws the crowds. We should always be real when dealing with people. People are impressed by our strengths but make true and lasting connections when we are vulnerable, open and real… and sometimes this means we need to share our weaknesses and struggles.

Fun Self-Test:

A) I try to always be one person no matter where I am (whether at work, church, a pub, or home). I don’t struggle to act in a certain way that doesn’t come naturally to me and I never have to/choose to hide large “sections” of my thoughts, actions, struggles, beliefs and activities from people. Although, I am open and real, people never say I over share and while I  am  being “real”, I do guard my heart.

B) It’s important that I pretend to be strong, authoritative,fun, happy, upbeat and in control at all times – no matter what. I always fake it, until I make it; especially when I am the leader in the situation. I am often described by others as being different from one situation to the next partner says I am different at home to when I am at work etc. I don’t share my feelings and most people don’t know what I feel and what I struggle with.

C) I don’t see the value in being real, or pretending to be something I am not.  I just like to be and exist; I am ambivalent.

Fun Self-Test Results

Mostly A’s:

You are either an outstanding communicator or in denial or worked out strategically that the more favourable answer in this blog is A. But let’s assume you are genuinely a good communicator – you are courteous, approachable, honest, authentic, a good listener, good with conflict (even if you don’t enjoy it). You meditate on feedback but discard anything that you have sifted through and don’t believe is valid or fair. People say you are a good listener and in general, people tend to get drawn to you and like you. Keep up the good work.

Mostly B’s:

Your communication skills are sadly at level troll but hey, at least you are not in denial. You really need to work on your communication skills and possibly get a professional person to help you get to the root issues or the heart of the matter. You often alienate, scare, offend, anger and repel people; often inadvertently. You often feel like you are the victim and that people are rude to you, or give you attitude – and sadly, it is “justified” reactions due to your poor communication skills. If you don’t act and improve your communication skills now, you will unfortunately not have a satisfying, fulfilling and joy-filled life because of the isolation and rejection that so often surround poor communicators.

Mostly C’s:

Your communication skills are around level dreadful. You may seem less offensive than the Mostly B’s in that many people may not realise you are not the best communicator. You are like lukewarm tea – not here or there and not really building relationships. Your conflict skills are non-existent because you run away from it. You may prefer splendid isolation (as you feel safe there) but unless you step out of your comfort zone and work on your communication skills, you will live a half-life. If you don’t have a life coach, therapist, mentor or leader in your life to help you grow and work on your comms skills, ask a mature friend to hold you accountable… that is if you are interested in living a life that is more than average (5 out of 10).

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