Without a doubt, being able to communicate effectively and authentically has many, many advantages in life. In fact, communication skills are arguably some of the most versatile skills a person can have. Unfortunately, we know that many of you struggle to figure out how to communicate your feelings. But we’re here to help! When you master the skill of communicating authentically, you’ll be amazed at how many doors will open for you both professionally and personally. So, let’s get started!
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How to Communicate Authentically
Authentic communication is one of the best ways to let people see the inner you. As you let them in, you’ll gain their trust. We know this doesn’t always come easily for everyone. So we’ve put together a list of some of the tips and tricks you can employ to make communicating authentically feel… well… a bit more authentic!
Before we get into the juicy stuff though, let’s take a few steps back to discuss what authentic communication even is and why it’s important.
What exactly is authentic communication?
Authentic communication is a form of healthy communication that comes from your authentic self. Put simply, this is the communication style you use when you’re talking to your loved ones and there’s no pressure to achieve a particular outcome or goal. This is how you talk to your best friends, partner, parents, etc. when you want them to see the real you.
Since communication is a two-way street, authentic communication also means hearing and understanding what someone else is saying and conversing with them compassionately. It means taking the time to understand what is bothering someone and helping them through it thoughtfully and honestly.
On a broader level, authentic communication allows you to talk with others on a deeper level than the day-to-day transactional conversations we have with strangers. It shows the listeners that you are genuinely interested in them as people and their current situation.
Why is authentic communication important?
Authentic communication allows you to go deeper with other people. This means you can get to know them more on a personal level and vice versa. As a result, you pave the way toward a new kind of relationship together, one that enriches your well-being.
You might have noticed that authentic communication has become a bit of a buzzword lately. But this style has been used by successful salespeople for centuries (or maybe even millennia!). After all, it makes other people feel at ease. If they feel like they need to be on the defensive, it’s much harder to convince them to buy something from you!
And authentic communication goes way beyond the business world. Think back to your high school history classes and all of the most influential men and women in modern history. Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra, Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Adolf Hitler… at first glance, these people seem like they have little in common. One of the most important characteristics they share is that they were good orators because they were able to communicate authentically. They were passionate about what they believed in and were able to get other people to think the same way. For better or worse, this allowed them to get support for their cause and change history as we know it.
Everyone reaps the benefits.
Authentic communication helps to build trusting relationships between people and promotes collaboration. It can also help create an inclusive culture that makes people feel more comfortable speaking their minds and communicating authentically in return. In many ways, authentic communication validates other people, letting them know they matter.
If that isn’t enough to make you want to change your focus, keep in mind that communicating authentically has also been linked to creating a happier, healthier environment for yourself and the people around you. It shows people that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions matter to you. That, in turn, makes them feel included and valued. Research has shown that positive interactions have a huge influence on the overall happiness of a person. Meanwhile, the inability to get along with others results in people being unhappy.
Tips on Communicating Authentically
Now that you’re sold on the benefits, let’s dive into some tips to get you there!
Speak with purpose.
We probably all know someone who may not say much. But when they do, their words seem to have been chosen wisely and purposefully. They can convey a tremendous amount of meaning in just one or two sentences, and their words stick in your mind. This is the perfect example of someone who speaks with purpose.
When you want to communicate authentically, it’s important to know the purpose of your words and how you want them to be conveyed. This is particularly important when you’re providing feedback to someone in a professional situation. It also applies when you’re having an important discussion with your significant other. After all, you need to explain your feelings while you try to understand theirs, as well. If you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to say, it could likely be misinterpreted, which could lead to the silent treatment.
Have you ever heard of a microaggression? This is the word used to describe small actions that can negatively impact another person. Often, the person inflicting the damage doesn’t realize the impact of their words or actions. It’s important to be self-aware and conscious of your own personal biases and personality quirks when you’re communicating authentically. Think about how your actions may be perceived by someone else. When you’ve had misunderstandings or fights with other people, what caused them? Was it due to miscommunication or perceived slights that were misinterpreted? If that was the case, this point may be the perfect starting point for some self-reflection on your prejudices and how they can impact your communication skills.
Imagine someone who loves everything about chickens. They can talk all day long about the life cycles, personalities, intelligence levels, breeds, etc. of chickens. At first, you may find yourself wondering why they’re so excited about chickens. But slowly, their passion for the subject will rub off on you a bit. Maybe you’ll start to develop a bit of an interest in chickens yourself!
When someone is passionate about something, it’s hard for that passion not to spread. So why not be that person? An important part of authentic communication is showing that you’re passionate about a particular cause or issue. This helps listeners connect with you on a personal level, especially if you’re talking about something that you really love, whether it be chickens, history, or traveling.
Be an active listener.
Being a good listener is more than just hearing what someone is saying. As we said before, communication is a two-way street. An important part of authentic communication is attentive listening. Put aside all distractions, like cell phones and TVs, and take the time to truly listen and absorb what someone else is saying. Giving people the space for self-expression shows that you respect them. You also get the opportunity to truly understand how a person feels.
Be attentive to other people’s feelings.
Not everyone is eager to talk about their positive or negative feelings. In order to communicate authentically with them, you need to pay special attention to any cues that could give insight into your partner’s feelings. Often, this is linked to body language, and you’ll get some hint that someone is upset.
However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you won’t know why the communication broke down. You must reflect on your own communication style from time to time. Ask yourself if there’s anything you would have changed about a particular conversation. If there is, use that as a learning opportunity so you can continue to improve in the future. Depending on how the other person feels, you may want to follow up about any tender exchanges.
Develop your emotional vocabulary.
One of the most challenging parts about trying to express feelings is not having the words to say what you mean. Having a strong emotional vocabulary can help you explain exactly what you’re feeling and why. This will go a long way when you’re conveying how you feel to someone else, and it greatly reduces the risk of misunderstandings between two people. Not sure where to start? Using I statements is a good place. Narrow the focus of the conversation by saying, “I feel…” Whether you feel angry or happy, identifying the emotion leads to understanding the emotion.
Keep an eye on your body language.
Facial expressions and body movements are an essential part of communication. When you’re communicating with others, pay attention to your tone of voice and how your body is moving. One classic example of body language is perceiving someone as closed off when they have their arms crossed in front of their chest. Try to avoid making any body movements that can be perceived negatively. Not only could this make your listeners feel uncomfortable, but it may also cause them to question the integrity of what you’re saying.
At the same time, pay attention to what the other person’s body language is telling you. You’ll better understand how they’re thinking or feeling and be able to adjust your own communication style accordingly.
Take care of your mental health and wellness.
There’s an old saying that you can “fake it ’til you make it.” While this is true in many cases, it’s pretty difficult to pretend to be happy or hide negative emotions when you’re communicating authentically. As such, it’s more important than ever to focus on your mental health. Listeners can usually tell when something isn’t quite right, especially if it’s someone with whom you communicate routinely. If you aren’t upfront, you might inadvertently cause a breakdown in communication, and it will be very difficult to bridge.
Rather than trying to hide unhappiness, take the time to focus on your own mental health and overall wellness to get to the root cause. If necessary, talk to a trusted friend or a health care worker. They can help you get through any rough patches in a healthy way. And make sure to check in with your own feelings and emotional state from time to time so that you can nip any developing issues in the bud. This high level of emotional intelligence will not only help you in the long run but will also make the people around you feel more at ease in your presence.
Make eye contact with listeners.
Eyes are the windows into someone’s soul, and you can learn a lot about a person when looking into their eyes. Making eye contact while speaking to someone can help both parties remain focused on the conversation, and it makes it easier for you to read facial expressions.
Many people feel awkward about making eye contact with others. If you are one of them, try not to let it bother you or keep you from doing it. Maintaining eye contact with another person while communicating can help deepen the conversation and connection. Evolving your relationship in this way is well worth the awkwardness!
While healthy relationships are important to a happy life, the most important relationship you’ve got is the one you have with yourself. Practicing self-care is a good way to give yourself the attention you deserve. You could incorporate activities such as journaling, meditating, reading, doing yoga, and so on. The important thing is that the activity makes you happy and gives you the much-needed time to focus on yourself.
If you feel a little guilty practicing self-care, think about it this way: an empty vessel can’t pour. Self-care is your chance to refill your empty vessel so that you have more positive feelings and energy to give. And always remember that if someone is feeling less than their best, it shows.
Be prepared to have difficult conversations.
It would be awesome to live in a world where everyone is happy and you never have to be the bearer of bad news—we all know that. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a paradise. Tough events seem to happen at all the wrong times, and at some point, most of us will have difficult conversations we would really prefer not to have.
Part of communicating authentically is being able to have these difficult conversations in a respectful, conscious way. It means being clear and honest with another person and making sure they understand what you’re trying to say. You can’t talk in circles or beat around the bush in an attempt to avoid saying something that will hurt the other person. Be brave. The risk is worth it!
Nurturing Effective Communication
So, how are you feeling? We hope this guide has given you the toolbox you need to start communicating clearly and effectively, from the heart. It may make you feel a little awkward and vulnerable at first, but we promise you will reap the benefits of it!
If you’d like to learn more about how to communicate your feelings with your loved ones, head over to our Connect blog. Here, you’ll find hundreds of articles covering everything from reconnecting with your spouse to going on fulfilling family vacations.
If you need a little help getting started communicating authentically, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Adventures From Scratch. Packed with 50+ scratch-off adventures and activities, these books were designed to promote communication, engagement, and teamwork among families, friends, and couples.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning how to communicate your feelings authentically allows you to have a deeper connection with people since they can see the real you. You’ll develop a higher degree of trust as a result.