We’ve all experienced situations where we’ve felt angry or upset while communicating with someone, but have refrained from actually expressing how we feel. Instead, we let those feelings fester inside until they become volatile. Consequently, we might feel as though we are isolated or unable to be honest about our emotions, or, we fear that by doing so we will incur some negative consequence. Italian psychologist Francesca D’Errico and philosopher Isabella Poggi define this behavior through a term they call “acid communication.” According to them, acid communication is when “The person who performs acid communication is feeling angry due to some feeling of injustice and would like to express one’s anger, but cannot do so due to a feeling of impotence, both to recover from the injustice undergone, and to prevent the negative consequences of one’s expression.” This negativity then manifests alternatively in indirect or passive aggression because the individual feels as though their discontentment cannot be expressed directly.
What is “Acid Communication?”
The acid speaker is likely to use irony, sarcasm, insinuation, and indirect criticism in both words and tone of voice to project an image of collected intelligence. The same goal can be accomplished using certain bodily gestures or facial expressions, like the a9ll-too-common eye-roll. Such tactics are usually subversive methods of expressing aggression, often associated with feelings of being attacked or put in a place where one is made uncomfortable but feels unable to effectively express that discomfort.
Unfortunately, acid communication isn’t an effective way of expressing one’s feelings or communicating with others. In fact, it can lead to more miscommunication and misunderstandings that if one is upfront and honest about how they feel. Moreover, acid communication can lead to harbored feelings of negativity and resentment both towards oneself and others, both of which can impact how one behaves in future interactions. There are several ways to avoid this style of communication and, as a result, communicate more successfully and effectively. Here are five examples of better techniques to use when communicating to avoid resorting to acid communication.
5 Ways to Become a Better Communicator
1. Don’t Dominate a Dialogue
Any successful dialogue is well-balanced and allows each participant to adequately express themselves. To ensure this, remember to be patient and allow others a chance to speak and express their thoughts and feelings. In doing so, don’t interrupt the other speakers. Doing so can make them feel as though their contributions aren’t valued and therefore upset them. Filling in awkward pauses or silences is one thing, but interrupting someone’s train of thought to interject your own thoughts and opinions is another. Also, both when initiating and maintaining a dialogue, be sure to frame your comments to allow for opportunities of interaction. What this means is that asking questions or leaving statements open for the input of others can be a good way to encourage your conversation partners to feel as though their thoughts and feelings are welcome and willing to be heard.
2. Respect Others’ Opinions
Just as you would expect others to listen to and respect your words and opinions, so you should demonstrate that same consideration to others. A key element of successful communication lies in good listening. After all, all perspectives are valid in their own ways. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything someone else is saying. Disagreement is okay. That being said, regardless if an individual’s perspective is directly in line with your own, each person has a right to express their thoughts and opinions, and those thoughts and opinions deserve the same amount of respect as your own.
3. Everyone Should Feel Encouraged to Participate
While initially this might seem like it once again focuses on the other members of a conversation, you, too, should feel encouraged and welcome to participate. A successful dialogue takes places when all of the participants feel welcome to express themselves. Just as you’ve been encouraged to let others voice their perspectives and opinions, so, too, should you feel free to express your own. Stifling one’s feelings, as we’ve examined, can lead to those feelings manifesting later in negative and unproductive ways. Instead, be honest with your thoughts and feelings, and don’t be afraid to change the subject if the one you’re currently discussing has become uncomfortable, or if you feel that an important topic is being overlooked. The key to initiating this shift successfully is to be honest about why you’d like to change the subject in the first place. Doing this can allow for others to see your perspective so your efforts are seen as productive rather than intrusive.
4. Moderators are Facilitators, Not Participants
At first glance, leading a discussion can seem like a powerful position from which one can successfully control an entire conversation. However, think of this position as moderative versus dictative. Rather than taking advantage of this control and dominating the entire conversation with your opinions, take the opportunity to make sure there is an even flow of participation and everyone is being allowed to engage in the dialogue. Its a good idea to pay attention to the flow of topics among speakers and choose contributors in a fair manner, agreed upon by the conversation participants. Moreover, it’s okay to volunteer help and advice when it’s asked for, but imposing one’s knowledge on others can be abrasive and make others feel as though they are less intelligent or less capable. Expertise is valued, but be mindful of what language both verbal and nonverbal is being used to convey this knowledge to determine whether or not it is being utilized effectively.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Reflect
Reflection can help bring psychological closure to any dialogue. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself whether your thoughts about an issue have changed, or whether or your thoughts about the views of others have changed. Questions like these can help one better understand the full effect of any interaction and thus bring about a sense of closure. Keep in mind that being a good conversationalist is about more than just maintaining a dialogue. Truly successful communication is when people feel valued, respected, and listened to. It is these conversations that produce the greatest strides and sense of fulfillment both in oneself and in one’s dialogue partners.