Communicating and reflecting on your message

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mother and daughter walking

​We all learn from experience – the good and the bad! So when you’re thinking about communicating something important to you, ask yourself what has helped you communicate effectively in the past and what has made it more difficult.

Communicating your message

Choose the right time

Plan ahead and choose a time when no other important topics will be discussed, and a location with few distractions.

Try to stay calm

If you have something important to say, there might be a lot of emotions tied up in your reasons for communicating. Feeling emotional isn’t a bad thing, but it can be hard to think and speak clearly when your emotions are too strong.

Using strategies to keep calm will help you communicate your message more effectively. Preparing your thoughts and composing yourself ahead of time will help you share the message you want to give in the way that you want to give it.

  • Before your conversation: Take time to chill out. Listen to music, sit quietly, go for a walk or do whatever works for you to relax.
  • During your conversation: If you feel yourself getting emotional or upset, practise taking a few deep breaths. Focus on the movement of your breath, in and out. Tell the person that you’re communicating with that you need a moment to collect your thoughts, and then start again. Pausing during a conversation is a good idea so that you have time to think before you respond. Sometimes when we are worried or feel emotional during a conversation we may think that there has been a long silence when only a few seconds have gone by. To practise taking a pause in the conversation the next time you have a conversation with your parents or friends count to 10 in your head before you respond. This will give you an idea of how long 10 seconds is and you may feel more comfortable with pausing when you need time to think before you respond in the future.

Remember to listen

Most times, the best way to communicate is to be a good listener first! Always let the person you’re talking with finish what they are saying before jumping in. Even though what you need to say in response might feel very important, waiting until they are done speaking will show that you value what they say.

Make sure to truly listen to the person you are communicating with. Don’t spend your time preparing your response to their comments while they are speaking. Carefully consider what they are saying and then decide what to say. When other people know that you are trying hard to listen to and understand them, they may be much more likely to want to hear what you have to say.

Be aware of your body language

Did you know that more than 90 percent of communication is non-verbal? In other words, your body language and tone of voice play a larger role than the words you use when you communicate with others. The way you stand, your eye contact, your facial expression and the tone of your voice all help the person you are communicating with figure out the meaning of the words you are using. Try your best to face towards the person you’re speaking to, lean in and look them in the eyes. Don’t do things like roll your eyes, check your phone or look at the clock.

Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements

This helps you to identify and stand by your feelings and ensure that the other person does not feel the need to defend themselves. For example try saying “I felt angry when I was told that I needed to be admitted to the hospital” instead of “You made me so angry when you told me that I needed to be admitted into the hospital.”

Be specific

Say exactly what you mean and mean what you say. Be clear about what you want when you communicate your goal and state your point as directly as you can. For example, if you want to be more involved in making decisions try saying, “I want to be asked for my opinion when a decision involving me needs to be made.”

Ask questions

Check to see whether you understand the other person and whether that person has understood you by asking follow-up questions.

Avoid mind reading

Don’t try to read other people’s minds and don’t expect them to read yours. Again, ask questions to clarify what you know and share your thoughts clearly to help the other person understand exactly what you mean.

After communicating your message

Reward yourself

Communicating can be difficult, so when you go through the effort of doing something difficult, remember to pat yourself on the back for trying!

Reflect on how it went

Afterwards, think back to your goal. Did you achieve it? What went well? What could have gone better? What would you do differently in the future? If things didn’t go as well as you had hoped, make a plan for how you will change what you do next time.

You are the expert on your own thoughts, feelings and body. Communicating about things that are important to you can be difficult at first, but start small and it will get easier with practice and feedback.​​

Last updated: May 2nd 2016