Is Communication a Skill That Can Be Learned Easily? [The Honest Truth]

by | Apr 14, 2022

Is Communication a Skill That Can Be Learned Easily?

[The Honest Truth]


If you’ve ever experienced a breakdown in communication, you may have been left shaking your head and wondering, “Is communication a skill that can be learned?” It’s no secret that poor communication can happen quickly, and it often happens during heated discussions.

Lousy communication (or lack thereof) wreaks havoc on any relationship or interaction. Luckily the answer to the question, “Is communication a skill that can be learned?”…I believe that it sure as hell is a skill that can be learned, and all it takes is a little time and a lot of active effort (consistently). 

Why Good Communication is Important 

Effective communication skills are essential if you want to have fulfilling personal and professional relationships.

Think about it. When people are easy to communicate with, we appreciate them. Interacting with them is a pleasure, so we don’t avoid or dread it. We trust them because we don’t feel disrespected or manipulated by them, and we don’t have to question where they stand or what they’re thinking. 

And when communication breaks down… well, now that can cause all sorts of unpleasantness, ranging from mild annoyance to, “What the hell just happened?”, depending on the different communication styles of the involved parties.

Many challenges we experience in life could be avoided if more of us knew how to communicate like real grown-ups.

The unfortunate fact is that not everybody is interested in learning how to communicate effectively. Least of all, toxic people. See my last blog post, A Few Simple Ways To Deal With Toxic People In Your Life for some insight if you think you may have someone toxic in your life. Keep reading if you’re not sure.

The good news is that learning practical communication skills will help YOU communicate better and help you recognize when you are dealing with a toxic asshole who is more interested in manipulation and control than communicating effectively or resolving a conflict. 

Hold up now. Before you start naming names, it’s good practice to look at your own habits first. 

Are You A Good Communicator?

The first person to address when it comes to effective communication is yourself. 

Let’s take a little inventory here. Would you say you are a good listener? Are you able to behave respectfully in an interaction with someone you disagree with? What about someone you simply don’t like? And when it comes to expressing your side of things, are you able to present your case clearly and authentically without trying to manipulate or control the outcome? Are you willing and able to truly hear the other side of things while also advocating for your own needs, i.e., standing up for yourself?

Think of a time when you had a frustrating conversation. What was it that made the experience unpleasant? Were there things you could have done differently to affect a different outcome? How did your attitude toward the person or the situation come into play? How did their disposition and behavior affect you?

There’s a lot that goes into effective communication. And it gets even more challenging when we add the emotion that goes along with opposing viewpoints. 

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is the most effective way to resolve conflict. Assertive communicators behave in ways that can be learned and practiced. 

Assertive communicators…

Are good listeners. Also known as active listening, this means you are LISTENING when the other person is speaking. Good listeners pay attention, and it’s as simple as that. Their body language shows it, and they also ask questions if they are unclear about something. The objective of a good listener is to understand the other person’s perspective. It’s the opposite of listening to react or make a judgment call.

Are respectful. This means not interrupting when the other person is talking and not showing disdain or disapproval if they say something you don’t like. You don’t have to agree with someone to at least respect that they have a right to think something different than you do. Being respectful also means staying calm and in control of yourself emotionally. Saying things like, “I understand that you have that opinion, but I have a different perspective,” is much more respectful than name-calling, talking over someone, or raising your voice. Your body language can also convey respect. Foot-tapping, eye-rolling, arm-crossing, and things of that nature do not give respect.

Demand Respect. Assertive communication is about demanding the same respect you want to receive. You have a right to make requests of the other party if you feel threatened, unheard, misunderstood, or disrespected.

Express themselves authentically. This is not about being forceful or harsh in how you get your point across. But it is about making “I” statements that convey your point of view. Using body language that matches your words is important too. For instance, don’t say, “I completely understand,” while shaking your head. 

These four aspects of assertive communication are important because they allow all parties involved to feel adequately represented, heard, and respected. This attitude of equal representation facilitates the goal of the assertive communicator, which is proper conflict resolution that benefits all parties involved.

People who communicate assertively feel confident in their ability to address challenging circumstances. Because they respect others and themselves, they operate in ways that encourage maturity and personal responsibility for everyone.

It’s the grown-up way to communicate. If you haven’t noticed, being in a grown-up body does not mean people act like mature adults at all times (and we all know this to be true if we are honest).

Poor Communication Styles

There are a few other, shall we say, less evolved communication styles.

Passive communicators are uncomfortable with conflict. Hence their objective is to avoid upsetting anybody. They are ineffective at expressing themselves authentically and demanding respect for themselves. And while they may not be poor listeners per se, they generally do not maintain eye contact or convey confident body language. 

Because of this conflict-avoidant behavior, passive communicators are likely to be taken advantage of, manipulated, and disrespected. They will probably end up with the short end of the stick more often than not.

Passive communicators are prone to building up resentment over time and then having irrational emotional outbursts since they usually have unmet needs and rarely feel heard. They can find themselves playing the role of victim and feeling unfulfilled and misunderstood in relationships.

Aggressive communicators are the opposite of passive communicators. They are terrible listeners who do not respect others. Their objective is to dominate, manipulate and control the outcome to their benefit regardless of how it affects others. They often focus on what they see as the other person’s shortcomings while deflecting any personal responsibility.

At their worst, aggressive communicators can be rude, insulting, or even physically abusive.

As a result of not addressing their shortcomings, aggressive communicators are immature and may become abusers in relationships or find themselves alone because their tendency to blame others alienates those around them. 

Passive-Aggressive Communicators appear to be respectful and cooperative on the surface while feeling angry and resentful inside. They are not great listeners, as they are generally looking for ways to discredit the other person’s point of view internally. They do not express themselves authentically or demand respect. They give in to the other person or seem willing to compromise when there is a conflict. But then they feel justified in undermining the outcome because they blame the other person for not recognizing and fulfilling their needs.

The objective of the passive-aggressive communicator is to appear as the “nice person” while (consciously or unconsciously) sabotaging the other person for failing to acknowledge or meet their own unexpressed needs.

Passive-aggressive communicators are immature and often have difficulty building fulfilling relationships. They combine the worst qualities of passive and aggressive communication by playing the role of victim while blaming others for their victimhood.

If this is your first introduction to the four communication styles above, now is an excellent time to start noticing when you are communicating assertively or leaning toward one of the other styles. 

Let’s not kid ourselves by thinking we are perfect communicators all the time. Take an honest look and see if you have any tendencies toward unhealthy communication patterns.

Knowing about these styles can serve as a great assessment tool for your interactions with other people.

I would consider anyone who consistently displays qualities of aggressive or passive-aggressive communication to be a toxic communicator. And unless and until they develop an interest in becoming more mature and conscientious in their interactions, my advice is to stay the hell away from them! That’s just me. I like dealing with adult (mature) individuals who enjoy the low drama of effective communication.

If you think you could use some guidance and pertinent examples of becoming a better assertive communicator, here is a great article by Very Well Mind.

Summary

Communication can make or break both personal and professional relationships. And something that, unfortunately, is often not done effectively. Luckily, effective communication can be learned. The most effective communication style is assertive communication. It is practiced by mature individuals who have a sincere desire to resolve conflict and build mutually beneficial, fulfilling personal and professional relationships.

Becoming aware of your communication style and the communication styles of those you interact with can help you become a more effective communicator. It can also help you recognize people who are toxic communicators and who likely do not have a goal of achieving authentic conflict resolution and healthy, mature relationships.

Are you an assertive communicator?

Have you ever engaged in “toxic communication?”

Which communication style do you lean toward when you are being, shall we say, not as mature as you would like to imagine yourself?


If you’re interested in using all the challenges in your life to become a fulfilled adult, check out my
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