Unless you’ve been prompted to consider it or someone has pointed it out, you probably haven’t considered your unique communication style. You probably communicate in the way you always have without giving it much thought. Don’t worry, that’s normal. Your communication style was developed long ago during childhood when your peers and family had a lot of influence in your life.
Children don’t analyze whether or not their communication style is confident or effective and neither do most adults. Your parents didn’t do this on purpose but they may have sabotaged your communication style. Today’s discussion is not about parenting skills, it’s about the effect of your childhood behaviors on your adult behaviors. OK?
That being said, if you find that you have difficulty communicating or often find yourself at odds with other people, it could be that your childhood sabotaged your communication style. We learn what we live and if you lived in a home with chaos or unhealthy forms of communication, it’s likely you adopted those traits and you’re still using that framework as an adult. You might not realize it, but these childhood habits are holding you back.
Think of your communication style as a plant. Just like a plant can be damaged by poor care, bad weather, or pests, your communication style can be sabotaged by your childhood experiences.
Here are 3 ways your childhood may have sabotaged your communication style if in your childhood:
- the key people in your life sent mixed messages
- you were unable or unwilling to be direct
- your opinions or thoughts weren’t encouraged or considered
Growing up, the key people in your life sent mixed messages
Communication is more than just talking. In yesterday’s episode I taked about how communication also includes unspoken messages sent through facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and more. If you were often confused because what people said didn’t line up with how they made you feel, you may have experienced unhealthy communication. So if someone said they were your friend but they didn’t invite you to their slumber party, you got a very different message from their actions. Since you didn’t know any better, you may have developed the same behaviors yourself and often confuse people when you’re sending the mixed messages now.
So how do you stop sending mixed messages? You can stop sending mixed messages by simply saying what you mean. Don’t say yes, when you mean no. You face will betray you and the person you’re communicating with will think they can’t trust you. (In addition, if you keep acting in a way that’s counter to how you feel, your body is going to reach out and touch you also. You know that stomach ache you have? It’s not dairy, it’s betraying yourself. But we’ll dig into that another time.) For example, if you don’t want to go out for drinks after work, don’t say, ‘I’d love to go’ while your face looks pained and upset. I might start to think that’s always how you look instead of recognizing that you really don’t want to go. You can probably think of a couple examples of times when you said one thing but meant another. Or said something that didn’t align with how you really felt.
Growing up, you were unable or unwilling to be direct
Clear, effective, confident communication is concise and direct. And it’s honest, even when the subject is delicate or sensitive. If the key people in your life were unable to be direct, kind, and confident with their communication it may have caused you to be timid, overbearing, or manipulative when you communicate. This can lead to passive aggression or running over people rather than having a healthy give and take. If you remember when you used to do this in childhood in order to be heard, it’s actually hurting you now.
You can learn how to handle delicate subjects effectively so that you can be more honest and direct in the future. Do people ask you questions over and over because they aren’t getting a direct answer? This is a clue that your communication style could use a little work.
Growing up, your opinions or thoughts weren’t encouraged or considered
Great communication involves an equal exchange of ideas or information. In your childhood, if you were not included in making decisions or your were discouraged from using your voice, you probably didn’t build a healthy communication style. How could you in those circumstances, you never got any practice. Being curious and asking good questions is an important part of communication. Asking questions helps you gather information, make more informed decisions, prevent judgmental thoughts, and build trust and rapport. If you weren’t allowed this type of curious communication as a child, it may have stunted your communication style.
How likely are you to ask questions or volunteer your opinion if you were never encouraged to do that? Or worse, you were discouraged from doing that? Unless you have worked on this belief, you won’t trust your thoughts and opinions now and will be reluctant to share them. That could be a big barrier to career movement and success.
You were never taught how to communicate effectively.
Your childhood has an impact on every aspect of your life, including how you communicate. If your childhood communications weren’t healthy, it is showing up in how you relate to and communicate with others. Getting some insight into your childhood can help determine if it influenced your communication style in positive or negative ways. If you discover some gaps, it’s a great time to learn some confident communication skills that can overcome your earlier lessons.