Did you know that your ability to communicate effectively can have a significant impact on your mental health, as well as your relationships with others? We’ve all experienced moments when our conversations take an unexpected turn or leave us feeling emotionally drained. It might not even happen until well after the conversation has ended. In some cases, talking with family, friends, colleagues, or others may often leave us feeling worse than we did beforehand. Why is that? A key to this is what we call our conversation style – that is, how we talk, listen, and interact with others and ourselves in conversation.
In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating connection between your conversation style and mental well-being, providing insights on how you can make positive changes to enhance both your communication skills and emotional health.
6 ways your conversation style can improve your mental health
Your conversation style is the unique way you communicate with others, encompassing aspects such as verbal and nonverbal cues, tone, listening habits, and questioning techniques. It reflects your preferences, habits, and social skills when engaging in conversations, shaping the nature and quality of your interpersonal interactions.
Learning to be a better communicator can help build confidence, forge stronger connections, improve your confidence, and thus improve overall mental health. This includes how we talk to others and how we talk to ourselves and about ourselves. Let’s dive into the different aspects of communication and their influence on mental health.
- Active Listening
One of the most powerful tools for meaningful communication is active listening, or giving your full attention to the person you’re speaking with, and really hearing what they’re saying. By truly focusing on what others are saying, we can develop empathy, compassion, and understanding. These qualities help to strengthen our relationships and alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can contribute to improved mental health. For instance, in a romantic relationship, active listening can enhance emotional intimacy and trust, creating a secure environment that nurtures positive mental health for both partners. Take the time to actively listen in all of your conversations and watch your relationships transform for the better.
- Asking Open-Ended Questions
Asking open-ended questions enables deeper conversations and encourages others to share more about themselves. For example, instead of asking a coworker, “Did you have a good weekend?”, you could ask, “What was the highlight of your weekend?” This practice fosters connections and allows us to learn from diverse perspectives. Similarly, when meeting someone new at a social event, asking, “What do you enjoy doing in your free time?” rather than, “Do you like movies?”, can lead to more engaging discussions and help form a stronger connection. Building stronger connections through the use of this conversation style does wonders for our connections and for our mental health. Want to know more? Read our recent article, Can Human Connection Help You Fight Depression?
- Being Mindful of Nonverbal Communication
Our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice play a crucial role in how our messages are received, in fact more than your actual words! For instance, imagine discussing a sensitive topic with a friend. If you maintain eye contact, have an open posture, and use a gentle tone of voice, your friend is more likely to feel comfortable and understood. Being aware of these non-verbal cues can help us avoid misunderstandings and create an atmosphere of trust and respect. Non-verbal communication can be a tricky thing to change in your conversation style, as you might not even realise how you use eye contact, posture, or tone of voice to talk with your friends, loved ones, or others. But next time you have a conversation with someone, try paying attention to these things. Slowly, you can try to make small changes such as maintaining better eye contact (don’t worry, you don’t need to stare into someone’s eyes while they’re talking, that’s awkward for everyone). Just be sure to let them know you’re paying attention by meeting their eyes as often as is comfortable.
- Avoiding Self-Deprecation
While self-deprecation might seem like a harmless way to break the ice or lighten the mood, it can have negative consequences on our mental health. For example, frequently joking about your clumsiness or forgetfulness can eventually lead to internalising these beliefs and feeling genuinely inadequate about yourself. If the saying, ‘You are what you eat’ is true, then ‘You are what you say you are’ is truer still. By focusing on our strengths and practising self-compassion instead, such as acknowledging our accomplishments and unique talents, we can foster a more positive self-image and improve our mental health.
- The Power of Positivity
Focusing on the positive aspects of our lives and expressing gratitude can have a transformative effect on our mental well-being. When we share our joys and successes with others, we not only strengthen our connections but also reinforce our own feelings of self-worth and happiness. Much like positive self-talk (which we will get into below), how we think and how we talk plays a big role in how we feel. Focusing on the positives, talking positively about yourself, and sharing joys and triumphs can strengthen your mental health.
- The Art of Self-Talk
The way we talk to ourselves can profoundly affect our mental health. This point is similar to that about self-deprecation, but is more about how we speak to ourselves than how we joke about ourselves to others. For instance, when faced with a challenging task, continually telling yourself, “I’m not good enough” or “I always mess things up,” can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. In a very real way, it reinforces the most negative things we think about ourselves. By practising positive self-talk and challenging negative thought patterns, such as replacing “I always mess things up” with “I can learn from my mistakes and improve,” we can cultivate a healthier mindset and improve our mental well-being. The next time you notice yourself putting yourself down, try to counter that thought with something positive, or gentle and forgiving. If it works better for you, you can even write these positive thoughts down and refer back to them when you’re having trouble being kind to yourself. You will be amazed at the difference it will make to your mental health!
Learning to use conversation style to improve mental health
Our conversation style, both with others and ourselves, can have a significant impact upon our mental health. By adopting better communication habits we can build confidence, make more meaningful connections, and improve our overall mental well-being.
However, it can be a tricky thing to understand our own conversation style, and harder still to make changes. After all, our conversation style is a big and very ingrained part of who we are. The best way to uncover your conversation style and make improvements is to speak with a counsellor. Your counsellor can pick up on your subconscious behaviours and beliefs, help you to challenge these, and work with you to build strategies to overcome them with more healthy ways of communicating. To find out more, book an appointment today.