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Let’s Talk About It: Strengthening Communication Skills in Young Adults

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activities to improve communication skills for adults

Today’s young adults have grown up spending most of their time communicating through texts, DMs, and comments through social media. The internet has become a way for young people who struggle with social anxiety to stay connected, but there may be a concern that these young adults may have difficulty communicating with people in the real world. Social media and the internet provide a comfortable place for young people to talk to each other, but it is important for them to practice real-world communication skills as well. 

Effective communication skills are necessary for young adults to build healthy relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and significant others. Whether they are attending college, entering the workforce, or just trying to make new friends, having strong communication skills helps students transition from residential treatment to succeed in the adult world.

A residential program for young adults can help give young women the tools they need to create healthy and lasting relationships. Journey Home East follows a relationship-based model that focuses on how to build and strengthen relationships within the program and understanding how to re-integrate into the community. The foundation of relationships is knowing how to balance talking with listening, giving and receiving, and working together with being self-sufficient. Communication is all about connection.

How to Stay Present in Relationships

  1. Listen to others

What everyone wants in a conversation is to feel that they are being heard. Have you ever been speaking to someone and instead of listening to you, it just feels like they are waiting for their turn to talk? It can be disheartening and make you feel less engaged and invested in the conversation. Listening is the foundation of any relationship and there are some things you can keep in mind when actively participating in a conversation: 

Practice active listening. The most important communication skill is knowing when to stop talking. Listen fully without planning a response. Along with hearing the words, pay attention to tone of voice and body language as well. It could be that a friend is blowing off a different situation at work, but in listening and watching, you notice that they’re posture is closed off and their tone of voice is agitated. Their words may say that they are fine, but words alone do not paint the full picture. And in the same way you pay attention to their body language, pay attention to your own as well. Are you fidgeting or angling your body away from the other person? Are you looking around the room instead of looking at the other person? All these things are a part of actively listening as well. 

Use reflective judgment. When you are listening to someone, pay attention to the message they are trying to convey. Validate their experience by rephrasing their message. Use statements like “I hear” or “it sounds like.” Try to mirror their logic by condensing their arguments, so that they can re-evaluate it as well. If you want to point out that something is irrational, instead of saying that, exaggerate their rationale and give them space to correct you or to realize it themselves. Be open to hearing what they have to say, even if it is something difficult to hear. 

  1. Relate to others

Emotional intelligence and an emotional vocabulary are tools that you can use to connect with others. For example, you may be expressing anger, but perhaps the root of that anger is actually sadness or embarrassment. By learning to get in touch with the root emotions, you can choose the correct words to best communicate your feelings. Knowing the right words is drilled into students in grade school when building their vocabulary and improving their writing style. Young adults realize that there won’t always be the right words for any situation and often overanalyze the right thing to say, which can take away from its authenticity. The most authentic words are often the most direct.

Another way to effectively relate to others is to keep your audience in mind. When asking for advice, a friend is going to offer a different type of solution than a mentor or teacher. When communicating your issue, try to be succinct and direct. Sometimes the full context of a situation is unnecessary and it can be more helpful if you focus on the facts. Consider how you can best phrase your question to make it easy for the other person to understand what you’re looking for. For example, if you are trying to decide if you should take a workshop to further your career, a mentor or a supervisor may be the best person to talk to. Instead of listing all of the reasons why you may or may not want to take the workshop, ask your mentor if they believe this type of training will benefit you in your job. Clarity and specificity will help you effectively communicate. 

Once you have asked for advice, be willing to accept the advice that you asked for. It may not be the answer you were hoping to hear, but chances are, you can learn something from someone else’s perspective. And there are multiple perspectives to every issue. 

  1. Connect

Empathy is the awareness of other people’s feelings, needs, and concerns. Someone who is empathic is able to put themselves in another person’s shoes and imagine how they would feel in the same situation. Empathy allows us to tap into shared experiences and reduce division between people. The reality is that we all share many aspects of the human experiences, and we can use these experiences to connect with others. If you are talking to someone who is telling you how stressful their week is and how they feel like they are falling behind, you can practice empathy by remembering how you have felt in stressful situations. We often want to jump straight into the problem solving part of the conversation: make a schedule or set alarms to stay on track. But usually, what people really want is for someone to listen and empathize with their situation. Problem solving may come later, but connecting helps others feel more open to hearing your advice. 

Connection is key, but equally as important is knowing your boundaries. Are you someone who finds themselves constantly over-committing or unable to tell people “no”? This is a sign that you are not honoring your boundaries. The first step to setting boundaries is understanding your emotions and your emotional needs. If you know that covering an extra shift for your co-worker will cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious, leading you to perform poorly in your own work, honor that boundary. Understand the limits of your comfort zone and practice getting comfortable explaining your boundaries to other people. It may be uncomfortable to tell someone “no”, but remember that these boundaries are what can help keep you mentally and emotionally safe. Being able to talk openly and comfortably about your boundaries is also crucial when it comes to romantic relationships. Self-advocacy and consent are important for every new relationship. 

Taking personal responsibility is also a part of effectively communicating with the people in your life. If you find yourself deflecting or shutting down when you realize that you have made a mistake, others may feel that talking to you about problems will be ineffective. If you are unable to be honest with yourself and with them you cannot truly connect and communicate. When confronted with a past mistake or current issue, try to take a step back. Check in with your boundaries. Are you feeling uncomfortable because your boundaries are not being respected or is it because you know that it will be difficult to discuss your mistake? Think about empathy. How have your actions affected the other person physically or mentally? Are you actively listening to the problem? Are you using the best words to communicate your thoughts and emotions? Once you’ve checked in with all your communication skills, if you feel that a mistake has been made and you’d like to correct the issue, take responsibility for your words or actions. By being able to say: “I was wrong” or “How can I help resolve this situation?”, the other person feels heard and will be more open to working with you to find a solution. 

Getting Help at Journey Home East

Journey Home East is a transitional program for young women, ages 16 to 21. Our program is specifically designed to help those who need ongoing support after successfully completing an intensive treatment program, such as a residential treatment center. We value strengthening relationships, communicating effectively, and owning your personal experience.

Journey Home East is the perfect fit for young women who are ready to build upon skills learned in therapeutic settings but recognize they still need guidance and support to further develop their success. Journey Home East blends a traditional home setting with positive peer and staff relationships. At Journey Home East we believe in the value of good health and healthy hobbies, two crucial aspects of happy, successful adults. For more information please call (855) 290-9684.