How we communicate shows other people exactly what’s going on inside of our hearts and minds.
The way we communicate has the potential to build our relationships up or tear them down. Either way, we have the final say in this.
While no-one wakes up in the morning with a burning desire to offend, upset, or hurt other people, even our greatest intentions aren’t robust enough to prevent this from happening.
Table of contents
The main reason for this is because we’re all imperfect humans and at the same time, we’re equally imperfect communicators.
When conversing and interacting with others, it can be easy to say things that we don’t mean, and equally easy to not say the things that we do mean.
For this reason, I’ve put together this guide to help you navigate your way through unfruitful communications, towards being able to initiate healthier and more meaningful patterns of communication with the people in your life.
Whether you want to make improvements in your relationships, or, you just want to sharpen up your day-to-day interactions with peers, I aim to share some actionable ideas that you can build into your life immediately.
Moving forward, may you avoid the unnecessary communication pitfalls that prevent people from building the kinds of relationships they hope for.
Good communication is the key that unlocks and gives depth to our relationships.
Relationships are the network of life, and the overall quality of our life will be determined by the quality of relationships that we keep.
The quality of our relationships is determined by the quality and maturity of our communications, and this is an area that all of us can continuously improve.
This book is not perfect; I am not an excellent author, and this book does not cover everything that there is to know communications. It is a menu, to help you become more comfortable communicating with more transparency, honesty, and humility.
I hope that you find my explanations helpful.
P.S. I’ve created a fully online course for those who want to project their communication skills to a higher level. Many of my past students have suggested that this might be amongst the best courses that they’ve taken on this topic.
Before we get started: For your own reference, write down the reasons you have for wanting to improve the caliber of your communication skills:
Q) Think about a recent conversation that you’ve had that didn’t go as smoothly as you hoped it would. How did your communication influence this outcome?
Q) How might the quality of your relationships improve by learning how to become more effective in your communications?
Good communication is a coward free zone
Communication is a Coward Free Zone
Communication is a process through which people exchange their thought, feelings, and understanding through verbal and non-verbal messages.
Communicating isn’t just about what people say to each other via the language they use but is also about how people say what they say through their tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language.
Although this might seem like a simple definition, if you were to consider some of the less productive communications you’ve historically been involved in, you might see how the subject can suddenly become a bit more complicated.
The way people communicate will often expose what is going on inside of people’s hearts and minds. All people, all of the time will either be speaking their minds, or they’ll be speaking from the heart. There’s a huge difference by the way!
There are countless other subtle ways that we communicate (often even unintentionally) with others. For example, the tone of our voice (how we communicate) can give other people clues to our mood or emotional state, while hand signals (or gestures) can emphasize (or add greater depth) to an orally spoken message.
An old Hebrew teacher once said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaketh.” By this he meant, if your heart is mainly governed by fear, you will be likely to project this fear through the body language facial expressions, vocabulary, and tonality that you use.
Subsequently, if your heart is full of peace, faith, generosity, hope for a positive outcome, and love, you’ll express your inner emotions through what you say and how you say what you say.
If your heart is mainly ruled by fear, doubt, bitterness, or anxiety, then what you say and how you say what you say will be to hide the truth about what’s truthfully going on inside of you.
If what I’ve mentioned here resonates with you in any way, that’s OK, because the process of learning how to communicate more efficiently is a lifelong process that we are all one as human beings.
If you feel that your communication skills aren’t serving you in the way you would like them to, it’s possible that you (like most people) just didn’t have the greatest teachers in life (usually our parents).
Communication skills aren’t something that many people are taught in school, the family home, or even in Sunday school – even though they’re perhaps one of the most critical skill sets needed to navigate our way through life.
Most people aren’t taught how to interpret and translate the language of their thoughts, emotions, and frustrations into words, let alone communicate them to others!
Resultantly, as most people don’t know how to communicate with honesty and integrity, they hide behind pretense and social masks that they hope will be acceptable to others.
Fear of Truth is the Destroyer of Honest & Meaningful Conversations.
If you don’t have the boldness or the willingness to accept the truth about how you feel, what you think, and what you need, you’ll be more likely to communicate confusing and inaccurate information to the other people you know.
Say, for example, your partner gets distracted one month and forgets to pay the rent on time. You receive a late payment penalty, and your landlord now wants to evict you.
The thoughtful response would be to come up with a solution so that a situation like this doesn’t happen again. But as you’re so angry, instead, you criticize and blame your partner, a fight erupts, and you wind up not speaking for the next few days. Criticizing and blame are two of the best ways to destroy good communications.
Yes, communication is critical to every healthy relationship, but unfortunately, mature communication doesn’t always come easy. When we blame or criticize someone, we remove the responsibility for a particular outcome, off from ourselves and onto someone else – with force!
Granted, it might well be the other person’s fault that the rent was paid late, but as far as open and healthy dialogue is concerned, pointing fingers and playing the blame game will always do a relationship more harm than good.
Understandably, we all want to express our dissatisfaction with specific outcomes at times, but communicating a general dissatisfaction maturely and responsibly is very different from passing the buck, pointing fingers, and verbally assaulting another person’s motives or self-esteem.
It can be a worthwhile exercise to ask ourselves the following three questions to understand the part we play in our relationships and communications with others (and answer them honestly as possible).
- If you don’t understand and appreciate what’s frequently happening on the inside of you, how can you understand and appreciate what’s going on on the inside of another person?
- If you don’t understand yourself, how could you ever understand someone else who has a different perspective and set of life experiences than you?
- Would you choose to be friends with someone who spoke to you in the same way that you talk to yourself?
Take a few minutes to reflect on what the answers to these questions might be and make note of your answers below. Remember, this is for your benefit!
Only men and women who fully understand themselves can fully understand other people. Only those who communicate honestly with themselves can communicate honestly with others.
These are traits of mature and responsible people.
Unless you’re willing to take full responsibility for what’s going on inside of your heart and mind, the communications that you have with other people are guaranteed to be and an endless array of miscommunications, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations.
No-one likes being misunderstood, and while we cannot control the assumptions that other people make of us, we can influence these assumptions by minimizing the risk of having our verbal and nonverbal communications misinterpreted. Honesty is the best policy.
Disempowered people base their day-to-day communications upon a foundational fear of truth and dishonesty.
You’ll commonly recognize disempowered people through their passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive communication styles. Incidentally, none of which being conducive to a healthy discussion.
Each of these communication styles traces back to incorrect beliefs that people have about the truth of who they are. Individuals who are secure in who they are (their core identity) will have no problem communicating honestly, confidently, and boldly
People who are insecure about the truth about who they are will be more likely to interact passively, aggressively, or passive-aggressively in an attempt to hide how they feel about themselves from others.
Ironically, insecure people are usually experts in the art of cunning manipulation and deception!
For example, if you’ve ever experienced a schoolyard or workplace bully, bullies aren’t genuinely motivated by proving themselves to others, they’re usually more desperate to make some warped self-edifying statement to none other than themselves.
Passive communicators are scared people who do their best to convince others that everyone else is more important than what they are.
Their underlying belief of passive communicators is, “You’re important, and I’m not.” When faced with an important decision that needs to be made in a relationship, the passive communicator will insist that the thoughts, feelings, and world views of others matter more than those of themselves.
If these people believe that their thoughts, feelings, and needs are being disrespected in any way, they’ll do their best to avoid any conflict and ‘move on’ as quickly as physically possible. In reality, passive communicators are unreliable cowards.
Passive communicators are dishonest because of the fear they have about being seen as ‘imperfect’ or ‘not good enough’. These people will tell lies and fabrications of truth to cover up what’s really going on inside of them for fear of being seen as weak or incompetent.
With those who choose to communicate passively, you’ll never know where you ‘authentically’ stand with them as you’ll forever be dealing with their facade of falseness. The principle here is, never trust a passive person to tell you the truth – they’ll be too afraid of offending you with it!
The passive approach that many people take to communication is deceitful, unreliable, a blockage to healthy relationships, and is impossible to maintain in the long term.
Q) Are there ways in which you communicate or behave passively at times? If so, do you understand why?
It’s quite obvious how threatening another person (physically, mentally, or emotionally) can shut down communication and even destroy a relationship. Many people choose this communication style.
Aggressive communication doesn’t leave room for much discussion at all. It’s usually just a one-way street that doesn’t lend itself well to an engaging or healthy discussion.
The core underlying belief of an aggressive communicator is, “I am important, you aren’t!” Do you remember the nerdy kids in school who ‘try’ to assert themselves by saying, “My Dad’s bigger than your Dad!” Well, aggressive people are like the perceptual Peter Pan’s who’ve failed to grow up and leave their childish ego-boosting ways behind them.
Aggressive people know what they want, and are unwilling to stop pursuing their goals until they’ve got what they want. We’ve all dealt with someone aggressive at some point in our lives. They can often fast food as they ones making more noise than anyone else in the room.
You know, those people who interrupt you when you are trying to put across a point — or, they’ll talk louder whenever you attempt to speak. That person who doesn’t value anyone else point of view other than their own. Aggressive people are energetically exhausting cowards.
Dealing with individuals who communicate this way can very easily create a lot of tension if we choose to enter relationships with them. The aggressive communication approach sends anxiety through the roof for passive people, because of the overpowering manipulation and control that is cast upon them.
Passive and aggressive communicators are driven by fear, pride, and selfishness. They are also both disempowered people who are difficult to trust.
Q) Are there ways that you communicate or behave aggressively at times? If so, do you understand why?
Dealing with passive-aggressive people can be one of the most challenging aspects of managing our day-to-day relationships. Passive-aggressive is a ‘difficult to interpret’ personality quirk of men and women who choose to express themselves in indirect and backhanded ways.
Communicating with passive-aggressive people is something that most of us are familiar with. As a communication style, it reveals itself in many indirect and subtle ways — which can often make it difficult to recognize.
Passive-aggression is a way that many people express hostility, (albeit through typically muted, seemingly apathetic, and often secondary channels of childishly manipulative behavior).
The passive-aggressive communication style is one of the most sophisticated. It can involve everything from the passive resistance of everyday tasks (e.g. procrastination, deliberate inefficiency, and forgetfulness) through to stubbornness, resentment, and thoroughly inconsistent behavior.
Passive-aggressive’s may initially appear to be enthusiastic about something on a surface level, but then they will intentionally act in a way that’s either counter-productive, unhelpful, or even damaging.
The core belief that underpins the passive-aggressive communication style is “You’re important, oh – wait a minute, I’ve changed my mind. You’re NOT anymore!”
People who behave like this do their very best to control and manipulate others through cunning deceit, and subtle-but-deadly forms of child-like indirect punishment.
Passive-aggressive behavior was initially recorded throughout World War II when used to describe soldiers who refused to comply with their officers’ commands.
A home department (at the time) complained of soldiers who were avoiding responsibility through willful incompetence.
The memo noted that the soldiers weren’t transparently defiant. However, they were expressing aggressive behavior by passive measures, such as stubbornness, procrastination, inefficiency, and general lack of awareness.
The War Department diagnosed the soldier’s response as the immaturity of character and an indirect response to common military stress (recognized today as PTSD ).
The passive-aggressive communicator is good at making sarcastic innuendos, veiled threats implied judgments (that come in the form of wise counsel), and withholding love, intimacy, or affection as a manipulative attempt of punishing or controlling others.
The passive-aggressive communicator is the kind of person you’ll see as being bubbly, overly joyous, and happy at times when everyone else is grumpy (until they get out of sight of those who they’re trying to impress).
What people don’t commonly see, is that behind closed doors, the passive-aggressive is insinuating gossip, criticizing, falsely accusing, and sending contradictory messages that would confuse the hell out of anyone who bothers enough to listen. They are venomous, bitter, and twisted deviants who put on a different show to appease different people on a range of different levels.
Often, women are attracted to men who appear charming and romantic. Often though, to their disappointment, they later discover that once the man’s initial facade of false confidence is gone, they become venomous manipulators who will say whatever is required to get what they want.
The passive-aggressive is also a coward who chooses sneakiness, cunningness, control, and manipulation to get what he (or she) wants. These people operate out of fear because, at some point in the past, they learned that honesty wasn’t the best policy for them.
All this said, there’s no refusing that passive-aggressive people exist. Although they might express themselves in different ways, their communication patterns will typically involve nonverbal aggression through childish and manipulative behavior.
Examples may include answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an open question, deliberately forgetting to post a letter, or avoiding a communication when there’s something important to be discussed or resolved.
Q) Are there ways that you communicate or behave in a passive-aggressive way at times? If so, do you understand the reasons why?
So, to conclude, if passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive are the warped ways that disempowered communicate, what communication style might come from a mature individual who is fully embracive of truth?
The answer is authentic assertiveness.
Assertiveness has been defined as being willing to stand for your rights (or other’s rights) in a calm and collected way, without being passive, aggressive, or dishonest in any way.
Just to note here, it’s important to understand that ‘being dishonest’ doesn’t always just mean ‘telling other people lies’, ‘being dishonest’ can also mean ‘not telling the truth’ when an appropriate opportunity presents itself.
The first perspective of an assertive person is, “You are equally as important as I am. Your perspective is equally as important as mine. Let’s respect each other here!”
Assertive people will not be willing to engage in conversation with anyone who is not prepared to stand on a foundation of equality with them.
Men are not better than women. Black is not better than white. Gay is not better than straight. Rich is not better than poor. Able is not better than the disabled. We all just are.
Honesty is the best (and only) policy for assertive communicators, who will not tolerate hypocrisy and will also walk their talk louder than they talk their talk.
Assertive people will not partake in conversations where both parties don’t have a high, equal value. They will not be afraid to share with other people the truth about what is happening inside of them; mentally, emotionally, and perspectively.
Passive people will often confuse confidence and assertiveness with arrogance and aggression. Which makes sense as most passive people spend their time feeling scared and intimidated by others.
Assertiveness is based on transparency and integrity. It requires being honest about our wants and needs while also being considerate of the needs and wants of others.
Aggressive communicators will generally have a deeply ingrained longing to ‘come out on top’ and win. It requires that we do what is in our best interest with complete disregard for the needs, feelings, or preferences of others.
And they respond to a passive-aggressive communicator by saying, “We can speak once you’re ready to start communicating more maturely.” Or words to that effect.
Sometimes, being ‘in-your-face’ honest is the kindest way to treat people. By becoming more assertive, you’ll not only gain more respect for yourself from others, but you’ll also enjoy the sense of freedom and liberation that walks hand in hand with unadulterated transparency.
It doesn’t benefit people to live in the illusion that their behavior is okay with you when it genuinely isn’t. Becoming assertive demands that you set consistent boundaries around your conversations so that they remain mutually respectful.
Which, incidentally, will only happen when both parties equally participate in pursuing the goal of a healthy discussion. That’s right – it takes two people to tango!
Communication is a two-way street. Authentic communication is when another person receives the information you’ve just communicated in the same way you intended it to be received.
Q) What benefits can you see in becoming more assertive in your communications and behavior?
The main goal in communicating
The Main Goal in Communication
Over the years, I’ve recognized a pattern in how healthy relationships aren’t based on what we can get from them but are based upon what we can invest in them.
This is one of these back to front ‘life principles’ that is true, whether we agree with it or not. Culturally, it’s normal for most people to put their needs first in a relationship, and at the same time, it’s also cultural for marriages to end in divorce within the first three years.
Could there be any correlation between selfishness and today’s high divorce rates? Yes. No. Maybe … but only when the finger of blame is pointing at everyone else apart from ourselves. Right?!
I can remember my mum sharing a valuable life lesson with me when I was young. She told me how the only way a relationship will last the test of time, is when both parties in a relationship bring 50% each to the table. She called this the 50/50 relationship principle.
Unfortunately, my parents got divorced after 28 years of lifeless marriage. Their main reason for staying together was to ‘protect’ my younger sister and me. It goes without saying that I questioned the 50/50 relationship principle. It’s a crock of shit, to put it mildly.
In the context of any healthy relationship, if either party is unwilling to bring anything less than 100% to the table, it’s only a matter of time until the relationship reaches turbulent times. I call this the 100/100 connection principle, where two people in any relationship give each other 100% all of the time for continuously deepening connection, intimacy, mutual understanding, and trust.
In 2008, I was living in New Zealand throughout a challenging season of my life. I was traveling the world looking for life, meaning in my life, and also to connect with other like-minded people. It was lonely a lonely time, to say the least.
As I moved from place to place, meeting anyone who wasn’t also in a similar season of life transition was rare.
I landed in a place called Queenstown, on the South Island of New Zealand. I picked up employment as a marketing consultant, and over time, even began meeting new people. But I didn’t have any relationships of depth or substance, and no-one to meet with on weekends for anything beyond beer.
I got to know a local hairdresser, who I’d visit frequently. It was nice going somewhere where I felt recognized and where someone knew my name.
She was also Scottish so we shared some common ground. A few months later, I received a call one day from a guy who said he was my hairdresser’s husband.
He’d recently moved to the area and was hoping to meet some new people. This phone call was like music to my ears. He asked if we could meet for coffee, as he had stumbled upon an ‘opportunity’ that he felt I might be interested in.
For the first time in years, I had been invited to someone else’s home for dinner – this was a huge deal for me at the time. So one evening, I drove around to their house for a meal, we sat down and spoke for many hours about home, the caliber of Scottish football, our life goals, achievements to date, and other fascinating topics of interest.
It seemed, that for the first time in years, that someone was genuinely interested in getting to know me. I wasn’t going to refuse this!
As the weeks evolved, it transpired that my new found friend was an avid pyramid marketer. I was working in sales and marketing at the time, so someone like me was his ‘ideal’ kinda guy.
To cut the story short, my new friend wasn’t so much interested in me, but more interested in getting me into ‘his team’ of other high energy pyramid marketers. The relationship wasn’t based on connection or trust but was more built upon the potential of financial profiteering and financial greed – this became transparent very quickly.
Two years earlier, I went traveling to Perth, WA, with a crippling ‘inner’ battle of gut-wrenching anxiety, depression, alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and a bad gambling habit (on the side).
My funds were running out fast, as I desperately attempted to maintain my destructive lifestyle (which ironically, was the only thing holding me together at the time).
One Sunday morning, hungover, I went to Cottesloe Beach, one of Perth’s award-winning beaches. On my own, I hoped to meet some young new backpackers or anyone who would give me the time of day.
As I lay on the beach, broken from the copious amounts of alcohol that I’d consumed the night before, two English guys approached me with a Bible in hand. One of them knelt and nervously asked me if I knew the Lord Jesus Christ.
I didn’t know how to respond. I stopped communicating with my imaginary friends when I was 7-years-old. They asked me if I wanted to be ‘saved’. In response, I told them to “fuck off and leave me alone”.
Now, you could judge me for this, but at least I expressed myself honestly and ‘reasonably’ assertively! Of sorts. Just to be clear, I was living in one of the loneliest seasons of my life. I knew no-one and felt as if no-one knew me.
And here I was, lying on a beach, dehydrated, half-drunk from the night before with a couple of Christians trying to convert me. The guys persisted until I gave them a last and final warning to leave me alone … or else!
Being a former soldier, it’s fair to say that ‘collective temperament’ wasn’t a strength of mine. The Christians grew in yet more confidence in this evangelical initiative they’d embarked on with me, their pushiness persisted, I lost my temper and punched one on the nose.
They immediately jumped up; they apologized for bothering me and walked away quickly. For the forty-five minutes that followed, I lay in the sun, frustrated, reflecting upon what had just happened.
I beat myself up, tore my self-esteem down, and couldn’t ‘for the life of me’ understand why I’d behaved the way that I did. I was disgusted with myself. I’d just assaulted a guy! How aggressive, how unnecessary – how animal-like. I deserved to be arrested for this.
Sickened by my actions, I packed my bag and walked back to my car. Within minutes, I sheepishly walked past the English Christian guys who’d previously approached me, I lowered my head, hid under the shade of my baseball cap, and hoped to go unnoticed.
As I passed, I noticed how they were part of a large Christian group with cool boxes, rugby balls, and beach cricket sets.
I was emotionally gutted. This group of people who were similar to me in age seemed so ‘into’ each other, and I was so very alone. At this stage of my life, if those guys had just offered to join me, or even ask me to join them – without the Jesus chat – I would have jumped at the chance.
If they’d offered me some water or even invited me to play beach cricket with them, I’d have signed up to whatever cult or religion they were part of on the spot! At that stage in my life, I didn’t care about religion, I wasn’t interested in business or making money. I was lonely and just wanted some friends.
Today, my life looks very different from how it did back then, and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way have directly influenced the path I’m taking in my life today. Over the years, I’ve learned that healthy relationships are the most valuable, meaningful, and fulfilling of all our many life experiences.
Unfortunately, there’s no current mandate in western society that teaches people how to do relationships well. So we learn from our friends and family members who aren’t always the greatest of role models for us.
Building relationships is similar to building houses. In the same way that houses need strong foundations, relationships need the same.
Where house foundations are made of iron reinforcement and concrete, relationship foundations are made of unconditional acceptance and trust.
Unconditional acceptance tells someone else the story, “You are not me, and I am not you. You get to be you in this relationship, and I get to be me. We do not need to change each other.
I have my interests in life, and you have yours. You are the expert of your life, and I am the expert of mine. Let’s agree to respect where we both currently are in life.”
Just to be clear here, unconditional acceptance doesn’t involve having to accept another person’s destructive or selfish behaviors, but rather; it means that no-one in the relationship tries to manipulate or convert the other.
Unconditional acceptance lays the foundation for trust, friendship, and eventually intimacy.
If one person assumes that he or she is living life in a more ‘correct’ way than another, this is both disrespectful and degrading. Without unconditional acceptance in our relationships, there can be no mutual respect.
Unconditional acceptance shows another person that regardless of what they do or what they say, the end goal of connection is more important than the short-term goal of ‘being right’. This is the 100% ‘thing’ that I mentioned earlier – being 100% unconditionally accepting of other people.
Without a foundation of unconditional acceptance in our relationships, we are not free to authentically be who we are around others.
“Without building unconditional acceptance in our relationships, there can be no mutual respect.”
So, moving forward, build better relationships by becoming the kind of person for others who you always wanted for yourself. May you offer other people the opportunity to experience what it is to be unconditionally accepted.
Because, while unconditional acceptance isn’t a cultural norm, it is culture changing. If you can see that there’s room for improvement in the relationships that you keep, become the change that you want to see happen.
While you can’t control how other people are to towards you, you can control how you are willing to be for them.
It’s only when we remove the option of disconnect from our relationships that we can create an environment where we can begin being our true and authentic selves. It’s worth it!
Q) Can you identify times in the past when your acceptance of other people has been conditional in some way? If so, what were the relationship outcomes?
Communicating with maturity
Communicating With Maturity
Character traits are the aspects of a person’s behavior and attitudes that make up that person’s personality. We all have character traits, some good and some bad.
When it comes to developing healthy and meaningful relationships, while it’s possible to be temporarily satisfied with someone’s physical appearance, their bank balance, position, social status, or material wealth, real people want to be with real people.
Maturity is the character trait that separates grown up’s from emotionally unstable (and immature) infants. While many people assign maturity to an individual’s age, it’s important to understand that growing in age isn’t the same thing as growing in maturity.
Edwin Louis Cole once suggested, “Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a question of choice.” He couldn’t have been more accurate.
While it’s easy to excuse the immaturity of a five-year-old child in a sweet shop, it’s not so easy to excuse the immaturity of a 41-year-old in the context of marriage. Many grown-ups behave like children and vice versa.
We all have bad days and we’re all capable of having the occasional temper tantrum (or sulk). Sometimes, we can find ourselves bored, fed up, and in need of some sporadic excitement or risk.
Unfortunately, though, for some people, these things can become blocks that stand in the way of us developing committed and honoring relationships.
You might be surprised to learn that maturity has little to do with how old a person is or what profession they commit to in life.
Maturity actually has more to do with how willing they are to assume complete responsibility for their actions, their behaviors, their motives, manipulative efforts, and emotional inconsistencies. If that make sense?
Have you ever encountered a child in a toy shop? Have you ever seen how they react to mum or dad when they get told that they can’t have everything that they want?
That’s right, if there aren’t immediate tears and screams, there will most likely be sulking or some expression or temper tantrum. Immature children become upset and offended when they are faced with the truth that they cannot have everything that they want in life.
Now, Fast forward twenty-five years. A five-year-old girl is now a thirty-year-old woman, who loses her temper when her husband doesn’t treat her in the way she wants to be treated. Or, the six-year-old boy has now become a thirty-one-year-old man who feels sad because he did not get offered the job he wanted.
As a fully grown adult, the thirty-year-old woman visits a therapist regularly to help her understand her autism/ anger problems. The thirty-one-year-old man frequently visits the doctor for a repeat prescription of medication to deal with his depression.
When we put emotional immaturity like this, it’s easier to recognize patterns of childish behavior from fully grown adults who have refused to take responsibility for their emotional inconsistencies in life.
For most people, it’s easier to assign childish behavior to modern society’s social labels such as depression, autism, etc.
Maturity doesn’t reflect a person’s age; it reflects someone’s willingness to take responsibility for every decision that they make in every area of their life – especially when these decisions involve other people.
Regardless of behavioral preference, we’re all on the same journey of maturation in life – it’s just that some of us travel at a faster speed than others. It’s important to understand that maturity is a choice, not a destination!
Despite what you may currently believe about the word ‘maturity’, we don’t start to mature in life until we accept full responsibility for our words, our actions, our attitudes, our sexual preferences, our emotional inconsistencies, and our opinions. Whether mature or childlike.
A seventy-year-old man who is unprepared to take responsibility for his attitude is less mature than a seventeen-year-old who does.
And in the same way, a 17-year-old man who is unprepared to take responsibility for his attitude is less mature than a seventy-year-old who does.
I spent most of my 20’s, looking for someone who would mentor me and whom I could hold myself accountable for my unpredictable behavior and emotional immaturity (even though I wouldn’t have defined it like this back then).
I wanted someone to step into my life and take full responsibility for me. This guy never showed up.
It wasn’t until entering my 30’s, that I realized, people who hold themselves to account tend to grow up intentionally and in a hurry, to break away from childhood and the immaturity of character that accompanies it.
Some people choose to grow. Some people don’t.
Micheal Jordan once said, “I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat. I’m out there every day looking to outperform myself. In life, we have competition every day when we set such high standards for ourselves that we have to get out every day and live up to that.”
Those are some words from a man who took full responsibility for his life, his attitude, his actions, and his beliefs. Those are the well-considered words of a man who has achieved great things in his life.
People who take responsibility for themselves grow up in a hurry because they choose to. Childish behavior, fear, and indecisiveness are highly unattractive to mature and balanced adults – especially when these attitudes are coming from other fully grown adults.
Responsible people are wise people. They expect more from themselves than anyone else ever could expect from them.
Responsible people make less avoidable mistakes; they get shit done, and will positively influence other people by leading a life of example.
Responsible people will ensure that their actions are a direct reflection of their words.
Responsible people are the grown-ups in the room, undefined by age, and undefined by status.
Responsible people gain the respect and admiration of others for contrasting the perpetual ‘Peter Pans’ in the room who refuse to take responsibility for anything else than the clothes that they wear.
So, if you want a few tips for becoming a mature and responsible adult, regardless of your age: take full responsibility for every word that comes from your mouth. Take every thought that enters your mind captive, and if any of these thoughts are inaccurate or invalid, don’t validate them.
Assume responsibility for your attitude, your feelings, your emotional inconsistencies, and also for your attitude. Your life is your responsibility.
If you screw up at times, which you will, don’t blame your parents, your partner, your coworkers, and don’t blame your boss. Don’t blame society, the government, religion, and please leave God out of it – it’s not his fault either!
Don’t blame your friends or your family. But be mature enough to look in the mirror, and whoever stares back at you, be sure to have a mature conversation with them!
Q) Are there times that you point the finger towards other people when it would be more helpful if you pointed it more at yourself?
Offer People Results, Not Alibis!
Regardless of their ‘good intentions’, there are many people who make promises and commitments that they somehow never get around to honoring.
People who do this have usually developed a long line of perfectly plausible explanations as to why they won’t honor their commitments.
In a world that’s forever getting faster, people live such busy lives and become experts at explaining away or excusing their failures.
Responsible people, though, are those who accept full responsibility for their lives. They know that talk is cheap and that actions are all that matter.
The world is patiently waiting for men and women whose actions will speak louder than their words.
It’s one thing to say that you care about someone, then it’s something else entirely to care about someone. Sometimes, caring about people means that we are honest with them in ways that no-one else will be.
In and through your communicating, seek the opportunity to render the kind of service that lightens the burdens of those people who you know.
We all have short memories. We often become so completely preoccupied with our interests that it’s easy to forget about the commitments we make.
Become a person who offers people results, not more lame excuses and alibis as to why you will not keep your word. 50% of communicating is what you say and how you say what you say – but the other 50% is action – what you do.
Words are cheap. Don’t be a person who’s known only for their words, but by a person who’s known for the actions you take and the results that you offer.
People will trust you for it.
People will love you for it.
Communicating isn’t just talking
Communicating Isn’t Just Talking
Many people believe that talking to someone is communicating. But talking isn’t communicating unless it has a specific goal and purpose.
Most often, the primary objective that most people have when engaging in conversation with someone else is getting into an agreement with them as quickly as possible.
The problems come, however, when someone comes along who is secure in who they are and is more committed to learning someone’s truth as opposed to being pleased.
The priority of agreement is that two people can’t be themselves (and honest with each other) in the context of a conversation or interaction. There can’t be two different people in a conversation —there can only be one person with one overriding perspective.
The longer that one party refuses to acknowledge or agree with the other, the more pressure and anxiety will enter the communication. Before long, the conversation becomes a battle over which person is ‘getting it right’, which person is ‘getting it wrong’, who has the right answer, or who has come to the correct conclusion.
The #1 priority for individuals who get involved in conversations like this, isn’t respecting the person (or the other person’s perspective), but it is merely about ‘being right’. This is a counter-productive approach to take towards any communication or verbal interaction.
Those who find themselves ‘needing to be right’ haven’t yet matured to a level of life where they appreciate how different people have different life perspectives. And this is genuinely OK!
Men and women who refuse to mature in life, also refuse to develop conversationally. Those who refuse to develop conversationally, are often the guilty ones for introducing ‘conversation killers’.
A conversation killer is a segment of conversation that people use to dismiss the thoughts, feelings, or needs of others as irrelevant. (Especially when another world view is contrasting to their own.)
Conversation killers are little behaviors that irritate people to the extent that they want to end the conversation abruptly.
We are all (often unknowingly guilty) of having at least one conversation killer in our communication toolkit.
Unless your conversation ‘partner’ is a close friend or family member, most people don’t want to know about your latest surgeries, your ex-partner, or current financial dilemmas.
Baring your soul to new people you meet, workplace peers or social acquaintances might give you some short-term relief, but long-term, you might fall victim to vicious gossip, social rejection, or even lawsuits! At the least, you’ll be a primary cause of other people’s boredom.
Likewise, other people do not want to give you the details of their medical diagnosis, their latest work appraisal, or anything to do with their finances. The main reason for this is that no-one else would ever be interested in this kind of ‘stuff’.
And if you were to stumble upon someone who seemed as though they were, they’d most likely be a passive communicator, and too scared to tell you how bored they were. So just don’t go there!
Healthy communication is the glue that binds people together. Don’t let situations like this arise when other people have the opportunity to discredit or dismiss you, only because you told them too much (or too little).
If your goal in communication is to keep two mature and empowered people connected in conversation, the first goal we have must be to understand the other person. This goal can only be achieved when one person asks another a question (or series of questions) that they genuinely want to know the answers to.
If keeping a strong connection is the priority for two people in a conversation, then the end goal of the communication could never be agreement. The agreement requires passivity (passive interaction) and falsehood.
In healthy relationships, people don’t always see eye to eye, because we all views situations (and circumstances) from contrasting perspectives.
If two mature people want to engage in thoughtful and engaging conversation, the first goal for both parties must be to respect, honor, and understand the other.
The person whose goal is to respect and understand the other is going to have an entirely different set of results from the person whose goal was to get into an agreement. Making the goal of understanding a priority in your conversations will help you to build deeper levels of intimacy and trust in all your most valued relationships.
Most times, we try to understand other people by relating their stories to similar ones of our own.
If this is an approach that you’ve ever taken, guess what, relating to your life experiences is not a good start for understanding someone else. Relating someone else’s story to your own is only helpful if your end goal is an insecure comparison or self-righteous judgment. Truthbomb!
If we want to sharpen our ability to understand others, we must learn to listen more attentively because believe it or not, there are five types of listening:
- Ignoring: When we’re not listening at all.
- Pretending: When we’re trying to show someone that we’re interested, but we aren’t!
- Selective listening: When we only hear what we expect to hear.
- Attentive listening: When we pay close attention to what someone is saying to us.
- Empathic listening: When we focus on listening to what someone else is trying to say to us.
Empathic listening isn’t about agreeing with another or showing sympathy. Empathy is more about understanding the core message that someone is trying to convey. The best way to listen is empathic.
For example, any good salesperson will know the needs of his customer base. He’ll assess his product range to decide how they will best serve the needs of his clients. He wants to know if he can offer a practical solution to his client’s needs and preferences.
Understanding people is of fundamental importance if we want to connect with those that we know in a more meaningful way than what we have done in the past.
Mature communicators aren’t afraid of being told the truth. In fact, they love the truth! Mature communicators also are not afraid to show the other person what is happening inside them or hear what is going on inside of someone else.
So, to summarise this section, in your communications and interactions with other people, pursue understanding before all other things. They will even respect you for it!
Q) When communicating with others, are you more inclined to make quick assumptions about what people mean, or do you take the time to ask them what they ACTUALLY mean?
(If you’re unsure, think about how often people come to you for advice or guidance – if people don’t respect your communication style, they’ll be unlikely to come to you for the advice!)
The blocks to communication depth
The Blocks To Communication Depth
Just having a desire for depth in our communications, is not enough. If desire alone were sufficient, we would all be fully satisfied, content, fulfilled, and at peace with everyone, we know for the rest of our lives.
There are some critical hindrances to communication depth that we must acknowledge and overcome if we want to take our communication (and our relationships) up a level.
Three of which I will define as being selfishness, laziness, and superficiality (falseness).
Selfishness is an obstacle that stands in the way of anything positive entering our lives – especially in the context of our communications.
The main result of selfishness is arrogance and pride. The self-aware person wants to understand others; the selfish person wants nothing else other than to be understood.
When we allow selfishness to get in the way of our relationships with others, we will find ourselves dissatisfied with our relationships, unfulfilled, and often even lonely. I speak from experience here!
Q) Are your communications selfish or selfless?
This question is one that you will benefit from having in the forefront of your mind in the context of every conversation you enter into.
Another obstacle to communication depth is laziness. In short, most of us are lazy human beings who take the path of least resistance at every given opportunity. Most people hope to do as little as possible and yet to receive as much as possible for their efforts.
If you don’t believe this, just visit your nearest call center or large department store – you’ll quickly see what I mean!
Most people have no desire to feel discomfort – the greater the comfort zone, the better. Often, we build our relationships on the pillars of convenience and comfort.
The problem with this is that if we want to enhance the depth of our relationships, we must be willing to increase the depth of our communications – which demands hard work, effort, and living outside of the comfort zone.
The main hindrance that I want to spend time exploring with you in this section is superficiality.
In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Dr. R. Foster wrote,
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a critical problem. The desperate need today is not for more intelligent people or gifted people, but deep people.”
We live in a culture of fast food and instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want these things now.
Think of the money that people spend who need to have the latest computer processor, the fastest broadband for cell phones so that we can have everything at our fingertips in an instant.
“Discipline is something that no-one likes but that most people admire!”
The biggest problem with superficiality is that it is shallow and without depth. Superficial communication might look OK on the surface, but when misunderstandings or other problems arise (which are inevitable), that lack of relationship depth will become painfully transparent.
Committing to depth in our communicating is hard work and requires discipline. Discipline is something no-one likes but that most people admire.
Discipline is something that women and men who achieve great things exhibit behind closed doors, away from their friends and online social following.
Discipline is hard work done in isolation for the sake of personal excellence – you reading this book demonstrates an excellent example of this!
And …. just to note, in my experience, disciplined people are usually always the most humble.
When choosing people to spend our time with, humility is a trait that’s attractive to us all. Humility is the opposite of big-headedness, arrogance, and pride (when all people do is talk about themselves).
Granted, when we are getting to know someone new, our conversations are often centered around the facts, figures, and current affairs of anything relevant that’s currently going on in the world (commonly known as superficial conversation).
We’ll exchange boring facts and clichés with people such as:
ME: “Hi. How are you?”
YOU: “Fine thanks. How are you?”
ME: “Great thanks. What’s new with you?”
YOU: “Not much really. Same old, same old…”
ME: “Nice weather we’re having!”
YOU: “Yup. It sure is.”
ME: “Are you going anywhere nice this weekend?”
YOU: “No, I’m broke.”
ME: “Oh. Right. Have a good day then …”
Superficial conversations like this demand the least amount of effort, connection, trust, and vulnerability. We’ll be likely to have conversations like this with strangers, people we barely know, and people whom we barely trust.
Sadly, though, there are husbands, wives, and even full families all around the world whose depth of conversation never goes much deeper than this.
People choose the comfort zone and laziness over communication depth. Conversing like this is sad and unnecessary – especially with those that we know or trust.
People who commit to communicating like this, usually do so because of times in the past when they’ve attempted to ‘go deeper’ with someone, they were either shot down, interrupted, rejected, or belittled for their honesty.
As a result, they get hurt and become wary of future honesty bouts, or communicating in this way again.
The familiar adage, ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ comes into play here. When many people get hurt, they often decide that it’s safer to retreat into a superficial communication zone that requires little vulnerability and no risk whatsoever.
The good news is that there is a cure for shallow and superficial conversations, and while this cure is attainable by all, unfortunately, it’s only ever pursued by a few. Depth.
While most people settle for communication breadth, I’m guessing that the reason you’re still reading is that you want communication depth. There’s a big difference!
This kind of depth, honesty, authenticity, and transparency, while available to all, is often hard to find in Western culture.
Why? Because it’s counter-cultural and breaks many of our social and cultural norms.
While we can each pursue communications of depth, we cannot manufacture it, we cannot manipulate it nor can we control it and make it happen.
While we all have room for improvement in the context of our communications, it still takes two to tango. This means that we can open up to other people as openly and honestly as we like, but if they aren’t mature enough to handle our depth, we are casting our pearls to pigs.
“If someone’s not mature enough to handle the truth, stop talking with them!”
‘Casting our pearls to pigs’ is a phrase we can use to describe being honest about ourselves with those who aren’t yet mature enough to embrace our truth (our thoughts, feelings, worldviews, etc.)
In Scotland, we’re a nation of passionately angry people. Most of the people I know use communication to make statements about themselves, their opinions, their beliefs and pursue the goal of disconnection as opposed to the end purpose of connection.
I appreciate how this may sound, but it’s true. While in secret, most people want to connect on a deeper and more meaningful level with others, their actions, behaviors, and communications tell a very different story.
The only way that we can build a deep connection with someone is to communicate on a heart level about our thoughts, feelings, and needs.
It’s on this level that we leave ourselves open to mockery and rejection, but it’s only on this level that we can connect authentically with other people and earn their trust.
This is the standard of communication where we express-open vulnerability and tell the truth about who we are and what we’re willing to accept (or not accept) from those people in our lives.
Ironically, this is also the form of communication through which most people get offended. Believe it or not, most people hate the truth.
For example, you could walk up to a 40-year-old married man with three kids and call him gay – he’ll most likely laugh in your face.
You could approach a successful businessman and call him a moron, and again, he’ll probably laugh in your face.
However, if you initiated communication with an obese middle-aged woman by saying, “Hey, you’re obese!” Yes, you’re telling the truth – but stand around for a few moments to see how offended she gets!
What I’m saying here is that most people choose lies. superficiality and falseness to the truth. Because most often, people aren’t mature enough to accept what’s true. Truth often offends. I once heard it said, “The truth will set people free, but first it will kick their arse!”
I’m not suggesting for a moment here that we commit the rest of our lives towards pointing out the painstakingly obvious to people whom we barely know; this is an unnecessary and excellent way to lose friends and completely isolate yourself quickly!
Healthy communication and a depth of connection require an appropriate level of honesty.
It’s important to note here, that opinions are not the truth. Opinions are just opinions. Feelings are not the truth. Feelings come, and feelings go. Thoughts are not the truth, and more often than not, are better off left unspoken. Truth is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The truth spoken with both compassion and unconditional acceptance has the potential to earn you a friend for life. The absolute truth is as deep as any communication can go. But telling the truth isn’t easy!
It’s interesting to think that most people just like talking about themselves. And it’s also interesting to discover how honest a person is willing to become about what they need and want when they have someone prepared to listen to them.
All relationships are built on varying levels of trust, and trust is developed over time. Trust cannot be naively expected, demanded, or commanded to be given. Trust can only be earned when one person recognizes that another is giving them their full undivided attention.
In any communication, the sooner you can get to the question, “What do you need?” the faster you can start taking the communication to a deeper and more meaningful level. Most people just need to be heard.
Unfortunately, because most people aren’t used to being listened to, they don’t know how to communicate what their needs are.
In Scotland, it’s cultural for people to think they have to present a solid case to someone before they are helped, agreed with, or even just listened to.
Sadly, in most cases, this is true. Scotland is full of lonely people who don’t know how to communicate their needs openly and honestly. In my experience, I’ve found that most people are completely thrown off guard when I ask them the question, “What do you need from me? Tell me so I can do my best to help you with that.”
It seldom crosses people’s minds that as a friend, coach, or mentor, I would help someone just because they asked.
I once had a mentor, for a season, who insisted that I sign a mentoring agreement with him before all mentoring commenced. At that time in my life, I wasn’t too bothered about having an official mentor; I just wanted a friend.
Unfortunately, for me, the mentoring agreement was conditional. My mentor ‘to be’ would only agree to mentor me if I pledged my allegiance to support a local mentoring initiative that he and his associates were involved in.
Months into our agreement, I recognized that the mentoring initiative that I’d committed to supporting, wasn’t motivated by compassion or even an underlying concern for others. But was driven more by the selfish motives of scared men who wanted social recognition for launching a charitable project which ‘appeared’ to be good.
There’s a big difference between what ‘looks’ good, and what genuinely ‘is’ good (by the way).
Goes without saying that as soon as I recognized these corrupt and selfish motives, I removed myself from the equation. The lesson that I learned here was that sometimes, things that appear good, aren’t good.
In 2009, I founded a mentoring initiative called Solid Grounds, a project that was very close to my heart, designed to support former soldiers through the transition from leaving the military, back into civilian life.
My primary goal with this project was to become the kind of person for other people that I would have massively benefitted from when I terminated my military service some years earlier.
I called what I offered mentoring, but it was just befriending. In the relationships that I developed, I learned how to listen to people; I learned how to take a genuine interest in people and ask relevant questions that would help them to understand their thoughts, feelings, and immediate needs.
As soon as a few guys began to experience it, they immediately recognized it as a practice of genuineness. They felt cared for and unconditionally accepted which cast out any anxiety that they had about telling me the truth of what their needs were. Honestly and without superficiality and unnecessary barriers.
As we’re approaching the end of the book, I’d encourage you to start getting assertive today, in your current relationships, as you focus on these people’s thoughts, feelings, and immediate needs. There’s no time like the present…
You can practice with co-workers, your husband, wife, children, neighbors, or anyone who will give you the time of day. Because practice doesn’t make you perfect, but it will make you a permanently better communicator than you’ve ever been before.
Be for other people, the kind of person that you have them be for you. Check yourself if you are tempted to invalidate someone’s experience as irrelevant or incorrect. You don’t like it when other people treat you this way!
Listen for the sole purpose to understand in every conversation you enter into. Strive to understand how a person is feeling and what it is that he or she believes that they need – for it’s in knowing these things that’ll allow you to offer valuable insight, truth, and unconditional acceptance.
People respect these things above all others.
Seek to understand the experiences in your past which have led you to a passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive communication style. Be honest with yourself and be honest with other people, because this is the key to creating meaningful relationships that last the test of time.
If you ever find yourself slipping back into your old methods of communicating, then take responsibility for yourself, take responsibility for what needs to be changed, and become the change that you want to see happen.
Don’t try to change other people with your communications; go on the journey of letting your communication change you.
Become a person who practices what they preach.
At all times, communicate with honesty, transparency, compassion, sincerity, and assertiveness.
Thanks for reading, and remember…
Practice won’t make you a perfect communicator, but it will make you permanently better than you have ever been before!!