1. People & Relationships

Ways to Improve Communication

Talking With and Listening to Friends

By

Two guys talking.

Two guys talking.

Digital Vision/Getty Images

A lack of communication is one of the biggest reasons friends fight and even sometimes end their friendship. Things that aren't a big deal initially get made into a big problem simply because one person didn't properly communicate to someone else.

Listen

By far, a lack of listening skills is the biggest problem in communication. It is the cause behind:

  • Hurt feelings (when a friend feels you aren't listening)
  • Misunderstandings (when you assume what a friend is going to say and miss the actual point)
  • Arguments (when you only hear a few words and get mad that your friend doesn't appear to be saying what you want them to).

Learn how to listen properly, where you fully understand what your friend is saying. In addition, it will help your friend feel that they are being heard.

Identify Times When the Message Gets Lost

Are there certain times when you and a friend usually misunderstand each other? Did you make plans over Facebook that got messed up? Or text a friend that you were going to meet them somewhere but they never showed? Or perhaps your friend got angry with you because they thought you were making fun of them in an email, when in fact you were trying to be sympathetic.

If there are certain situations that continually cause problems between you and your friend, change the way you communicate. We can get all too used to using email or Facebook, for example, instead of just picking up the phone and leaving a message. If the method of communication you're using isn't working, go with a different one. You might have to go outside your comfort zone in order to accomplish this.

Know What You're Going to Say

If you're the type that starts a story and doesn't know how it ends, you might be doing the same thing in daily communications with friends. Maybe you think about something you want to tell them, but your mind wanders and you end up talking about a bunch of other things instead. This is okay if it works for your friendship, but if you're having a lot of misunderstandings, it's time to use the mental edit button.

How to know if you're rambling on too much? Look out for situations like these:

  • Your friend became angry because they took something you said personally, but you didn't mean it that way.
  • Your friend assumed you were complaining about something when you really weren't.
  • Your friend told you they were tired of hearing the same old stories from you.

Learn to Be Assertive

Many people think being assertive means talking over someone in an aggressive way, but in fact it actually means that you confidently talk to others when you have something to say. This means that instead of waiting to let an issue build, you address it right away. You're honest, but not in a blunt or hurtful way. You confidently state your opinion, even though you know your friend disagrees.

Being assertive means that when friends overstep their boundaries, you lovingly correct them. This helps keep arguments to a minimum and allows you to avoid those negative feelings that can build in a friendship over time.

Bring Up Your Points When the Time Is Right

Very often it's not what you say, it's when and how you say it. Certain conversations just work better when the time is right.

Avoid times like this:

  • You're both in a hurry and need to leave.
  • Your friend is distracted with work or the kids.
  • You're at a party.
  • The spotlight is on someone else (at an awards banquet or birthday party, for example.)
  • You're in a group of people who can overhear you.

It can be difficult when you're angry with a friend, for example, and you just want to get the discussion over with because you know it will be unpleasant. But the adult thing to do is wait until you have the time to talk things through properly. If you don't, you'll end up causing a bigger problem in your friendship.

Make Sure You're Calm

If you're angry, you will undoubtedly say things you don't mean. There are some things that, once you say them, you simply can't take them back. Instead, wait until you've calmed down, even if it means holding off for a day or two until you can speak without anger.

If your friend wants to talk and you're still upset, tell them:

"I do want to talk about this with you, but I'm really upset right now and want to wait until I can clear my head. I think it will be better for our friendship if I give myself a day to think about this."

Ask Your Friend How You Can Both Communicate Better

If you find that you and a friend have frequent communication problems, don't accuse them of doing anything wrong. The problem may be on your end. What's more, different sets of friends communicate differently, so what works for one friend may not work for another.

Instead, ask your friend for ideas on how you two can communicate more effectively. Say something like:

  • "I notice we've had a couple misunderstandings lately when it comes to meeting up after work. How can we fix this? Do you want me to call you before I leave? Send you an email?"
  • "I wrote on your Facebook wall about the party, but I guess you didn't see it. I use Facebook a lot myself, but if you don't that's okay. Let me know what's the best way to contact you so I don't leave you out next time."
  • "I know you've been sending me texts during the day, but I really can't get to them. Can you call me instead? I can talk to you more easily that way."

Work Toward a Goal of Bettering Your Friendship

Make sure all your communication has a point to it: to improve your friendship. If you're saying or doing things that don't nurture the friendship, perhaps it's a good idea just to leave them alone. Ultimately, you want your friendship to be a safe place, where you both feel at ease saying what you have to say without worrying about being judged or misunderstood.

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