Communication is key when interacting in society and with the people involved in various facets of our lives. When conversing with family (spouses, children, parents, etc.), doctors, employers, friends, etc., it’s important all parties involved make an effort to give and receive information which will result in a clear understanding of one another. This can be a particularly challenging matter for those living with MS. Cognition, speech, meds, emotions, etc. can compromise communication. What we say, how we say it, and how our messages are received can make or break the outcome of a conversation. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to convey a message, yet the other person either doesn’t “hear” or misconstrues your words and intent – all efforts become lost in translation. If problems with communication are ongoing and become chronic, the damage to our self-esteem and emotional well-being can compromise our lives and relationships as a whole. There are ways to avoid such issues via various techniques and tools to help you develop better communication skills. With practice, you can improve the chances of engaging in dialog with successful, healthy results.
There are two key components vital for successful communication: SPEAKING and LISTENING. Listed below are a few pointers from MS and Your Feelings by Allison Shadday, LCSW
Tips to improve SPEAKING skills:
- Allow proper TIME available for conversation; don’t rush.
- Check your emotions – avoid touchy topics if emotions are fragile
- Stay on track – prepare ahead & write down notes of importance
- Avoid accusatory words & statements – “always” or “never”
- Use your words to explain & express FEELINGS – don’t assume
- Eye contact – use it often
- Remove distractions to increase attention & focus – TV, pets, etc.
- Choose a comfortable setting to encourage relaxed conversation
- Avoid insults – be respectful & open minded
- Check in to confirm listener UNDERSTANDS; offer to clarify if not
Tips to improve LISTENING skills:
- Don’t interrupt – yes, this is often a tough one for the MS brain to control
- Ask questions – clarify – make notes if needed
- Allow for confusion or inability to respond – request additional time to think
- Give full attention to the speaker – eye contact & body language
- Avoid distractions – don’t multitask during conversations
- Withhold accusations, criticism, assumptions – avoid giving advice