We all have different roles in life, right? We are parents, spouses, leaders, employees, sons and daughters, we are also strangers to others. How do we present ourselves in these roles? When we meet somebody on the street we tend to evaluate the person based on the first impression: the way they are dressed, the way they walk, their body posture and face mimic, and after that, if we have the chance to talk to that person, we get to know the person through communication. Did it ever happen to you that you saw a person and the first impression changed after you started communicating with each other? I admit, it happened to me and that led me to the understanding that the way we communicate is like our visit card, it is a way to present ourselves in front of the others.
It is already known that one important factor in increasing our happiness is having strong family and social connections. That is the reason why it is crucial to understand that communication, our visit card, is one of the most important skills in life, as it helps conveying our character and personality traits to the others, so that the others start to trust and open themselves to us. Communication also helps us transmit our needs and expectations or support us in helping others meet their needs.
We can communicate via speaking or writing, listening and reading. Body language is also one way of communication, but we don’t get into details now. The most important thing we need to know is that body language should be congruent with the other ways of communication to transmit authenticity. As communication is a dynamic between two or more people, to be successful it has to be effective both ways: to speak well you must be a good listener, to write well you must be able to read well.
Unfortunately, as simple as it sounds in theory, it is not so easy to put it in practice. Communicating effectively starts with knowing what you want to communicate, what shall others read on your visit card. And for that, you need first to figure out yourself who you are. Or in other words, do you know yourself good enough, do you present a clear image of yourself, or you present a blurry, scratchy, unclear vision of you? How should others know who you are, if you are not clear about it?
It’s a fact that there is a strong connection between self- esteem and communication. If you have a good image of yourself, your communication is more likely to be open, honest and appropriate, because you believe your thoughts are valuable. But if you have poor self-image, your communication tends to be unclear, evasive and inappropriate because you are not certain about your thoughts and you are anxious about the listener’s response.
As babies we seem to know how to ask for what we want without much language involved. We rely mostly on the body language. However, as we grow up, we start to encounter brakes: "oh, that’s not a good idea", or "you must do the other way around, is better", or "you cannot do this, you're too young and inexperienced" or worse: "you shouldn't be sad just because of that" and so on. Soon we start internalizing these sentences and gradually loose our ability to know what we really want, we lose our internal guide and self-trust. As adults, we see the effect in our internal chatter, the inside voices criticizing us when we make a mistake, blaming voices, discouraging voices.
Returning to the way we communicate, I ask you: how can you learn to come back to you, the true you, so that you know what is on your visit card?
As this is a very individual journey, there are no "ready-made advices", but I want to encourage you to reflect on this issue, put down some words about it because when you make the effort to get to know yourself, often the result is having more fulfilling relationships, living more consciously, having higher emotional self-control, of feeling more energized. Because you know who you are and what you want, it gets easier to make better choices in your life.
THE STARTING POINT FOR GETTING TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE IS TO REFLECT ON THESE QUESTIONS:
- What are the values you appreciate in life? Are you living according to these values, in other words, are you authentic and do you stand up for who you are?
- Do you know where are you coming from and what is the legacy of your family?
- Looking at your relationships, what are they saying about you? Are you surrounded only by people like you? Or, are you willing to hear critical feedback or different ideas without rejecting them?
- When things go wrong, are you taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings or you’re looking for someone to blame?
- How well do you understand your emotions? Are they controlling you or are you controlling them?
- Are you living a conscious life, are you aware of the things you do, the way you act, what you say? Or, on the contrary, are your actions on the “automatic pilot”?
It sounds like a lot of questions to answer, but you shouldn’t expect to work on that all at once. And don’t start comparing yourself with others, find what is unique in you, what differentiates you from the others. Be aware that getting to know yourself takes time and is a continuous process, as we and our environment are constantly changing.
Once you make the first step, you’ll see: when you are in one of your known roles, or only a stranger, don’t worry, you'll know how to communicate, because you know yourself.
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