9 ways you can be a better communicator this year

Lifestyle and communication experts share the best communication-related resolutions we all can be making in the new year.

For many of us, 2018 was a doozy, but we here at Brit + Co are ready to hit refresh in 2019! Follow our Hit Refresh series through January and February for new ideas, hacks, and skills that will help you achieve (and maintain!) those New Year’s resolutions.

Thinking about where to start with New Year’s resolutions can get pretty overwhelming. Should you focus on wellness, relationships, finances, work, hobbies? Since focusing on one thing at a time can make the process of setting these yearly goals feel much more manageable, we suggest communication.

You already know that communication is key — cliché, but true — so you might as well work on making baby steps toward becoming a stronger, more confident communicator. Plus, improving those skills can seriously pay off in your relationships and your career.

We reached out to lifestyle and communication experts to get their take on the best communication-related resolutions we all can be making in the new year. Read on for nine great suggestions.

1. Communicate to understand, not to judge

Asking good questions within a conversation does more than cultivate that comforting back-and-forth; it demonstrates that you’re genuinely interested in the other person. “

Communication means listening deeply,” coach and founder of LoveQuestCoaching Lisa Concepcion says. “Asking questions with a spirit of curiosity tells the other person that their perspective is valid.”

2. Pay attention to non-verbal communication

Relationship therapist and dating coach Irina Baechle tells us that body language is a key element of cultivating positive communication, especially within romantic partnerships.

“Non-verbal communication will tell you everything your partner wouldn’t say out loud,” she says. “It can help you understand the complete message. Also, body language will boost your awareness of their reactions to what you say and do.” When you’re having a discussion, start tuning into non-verbal cues like crossed arms, leaning away, and eye contact.

3. Ask for clarity

Not 100 percent sure that you’re following what someone is saying? This year, don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify! This is especially important in more emotional conversations or when you find yourself feeling defensive.

“This may feel awkward at first, but you will find over time that we often create stories about what other people say and do, and in reality, it often has nothing to do with that,” positive psychology practitioner and life coach Kendra Davies says. “When we give others the opportunity to clarify, we truly allow compassion and empathy.”

4. Use “I” statements during tough conversations

You’re probably familiar with this communication rule of thumb — when arguing with a friend, family member, or significant other, it’s best to use phrases that start with “I” than phrases that start with “you.” All too often, though, we’re aware of these kinds of rules and don’t actually put them into practice.

Marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain urges you to make this a resolution in the year ahead. If, for example, you’re feeling like your partner has been disengaged from you recently, resist the urge to say “You’re ignoring me!” and instead go with “I feel like you’re not as engaged with me lately.” That change in wording can go a long way.

5. Focus on listening

We’ve all been in the middle of conversations in which we struggle to truly listen to the other person. Maybe it’s because we’re distracted by other things going on in our lives, or perhaps we’re just so busy thinking about what we’re going to say next that we aren’t actually tuning into what’s being said in the moment. Let’s change that in the new year!

“Communications improve when we listen fully, looking to understand what the person is saying,” life coach Mary Connolly tells us. Listening to comprehend and not just to hear is key to being a good communicator.

6. Create the right environment for difficult discussions

In many cases, you know long before a conversation gets heated that the subject is going to cause tension. Get ahead of that tension by setting the scene. Clinical psychologist and life and relationship coach Alyssa Adams recommends starting these tough conversations in a quiet place with limited distractions.

Go a step further toward positivity by opening the interaction with a statement about what you most appreciate about the other person.

7. Find the balance between honesty and kindness

“I often find that people feel like if they are honest with what they want, then they are being mean,” licensed marriage and family therapist Irene Schreiner says.

We’re all for speaking your mind bluntly when the situation calls for it, but we’re also here to challenge you to work on perfecting the delicate balance between being kind and being straightforward. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

8. Put your phone away

Stashing your screen tops the list of recommended communication resolutions from goals coach Nadalie Bardo, the founder of It’s All You Boo. Cutting back on phone time can have benefits in many aspects of life, but communication is definitely one of them. When you’re trying to truly communicate with someone, it’s best to eliminate all distractions.

9. Replay interactions in a positive light

If you finish up a discussion with someone — at work, at home, anywhere — and aren’t happy with how it went, it’s easy to overthink the conversation and get stuck in all the negatives. Public speaking consultant and coach Maryna Shkvorets recommends making a habit of changing your perspective in these situations.

“Make a resolution to replay these interactions in your mind going exactly the way you wanted them to,” she says. “First of all, you’ll feel better about it. And you’d be amazed how often you can redeem yourself in a different situation, and it helps to have a clear vision of the interaction going the right way.”

How do you plan to improve your communication skills and relationship this year? Tweet us @BritandCo.

This article first appeared on Brit + Co.