Communication. It’s one of those words that people use so much it’s almost meaningless. Effective communication is seen as the solution for a variety of different problems. Having relationship trouble? Just communicate more/better. Trouble at work? Make sure you’re communicating with your supervisor and co-workers. But rarely do we ever consider what communication actually looks like, and even more rarely do we look at what communication looks like through the unique experiences of QPOC.
As QPOC, our voices should not be silenced and disregarded. We should be encouraged to communicate. Practicing healthy communication is one way to overcome the many isms of oppression exist as ways to keep us down and silent. Sometimes we can internalize these systems of oppression and carry them with us keeping us from expressing and living unburdened. Everyone should practice healthy communication, but it is especially important for our communities.
So what is communication? What does it look like? The simple answer is… it depends. Communication is different for every person, and it often looks different to the same person depending on the people and places around them. In order to begin a conversation around what communication looks like we’ve gathered a list of four habits we can build.
Often the most overlooked part of communication is listening. We can spend so much time thinking about what we are going to say, or how we are going to reply, that we never truly hear what the other person is saying. For some people, this can take extra work, especially for people with privilege, who are often told their voices and experiences matter more than others.
Listening isn’t just about hearing the words that someone is saying. It’s about working to understand what they are trying to convey to you through their words, through their tone, and through their body language.
Recognize that your voice and experience matter
We need only look at those who are raising their voices and experiences to see how powerful we are. From poets, singers, artists, musicians and more, QPOC have used their power to shape the world. When we take the time and work to value our own voices, we are not only better able to communicate with those around us, we are also taking steps on our continuous journey of self-love. Your voice matters, your experiences are important, and your emotions are valid. By recognizing this, we can begin to assert ourselves both within and outside of our communities and discover how powerful our voices can be.
Recognize what you are feeling and be honest with yourself
This can be hard to do at first. Often times one of the first steps to being able to meaningfully communicate with someone else is to look internally and recognize the thoughts and emotions that we are holding inside ourselves.
Many of us are raised and told that some things are ‘normal’ to want, think or feel, and when we differ from those things we can begin to feel shame about ourselves.We start trying to act in the way that’s expected and end up even more frustrated. It is when we know and are honest with ourselves that we can begin a path towards healing. By looking introspectively we can also begin to recognize when we are replicating systems of oppression in our own lives and when those oppressive systems have been internalized and are keeping us from sharing.
Know when it’s best to take time
Going hand in hand with recognizing your thoughts and feelings is knowing when to take a step back from a situation. Sometimes our reaction to pressure to communicate is to share our first response or thought. Often, the best thing we can do is to recognize when we need time to process before we can participate.