What are some strategies to help me communicate more effectively in relationships?

Growing up with a small family with a single mother, I feel like everyone else is more effective communicators than me. I identify as a Black male introvert. This means that not only does my social battery drain fast, but my understanding of racial dynamics and masculinity lead me to often stay quiet and observe others, so I am not taken advantage of. Looking for strategies to succeed in social settings at work, in friend groups and in a relationship. It seems like my communication skills push people away, or create unwanted tension.
Asked by Dre


It's an honor to take your question and to provide what I have learned both personally and professionally from working with clients such as yourself with similar struggles and similar questions.

Personally and professionally, I am a huge believer in what we call attachment theory. Attachment theory shapes an individual from the "womb to the tomb." Attachment theory is literally what the name suggests--attachment. It begins in utero. Babies can feel love in utero, before birth. Love and attachment shape them as they mature into children, teens, and adults. We are each created with a need for others and to live in community from the moment we are conceived, and that need must be tended to while in utero and beyond.

However, because we live in an imperfect world, we are all "wounded," and we are wounded in how we give and receive love. Children need the love of both parents, because both parents offer something totally different in how they shape and love their child and build healthy attachment. That was absent for you--you only had your mother in her home of origin. 

Single mothers are often pulled in so many directions, and their batteries often drain fast. Therefore, it is hard for single parents to give their children everything those children need. Even though, "this is what it is," it still creates gaps, woundedness, problems, immaturity, etc. for children in areas of academic and social functioning. Children that grow up in single parent homes also often play comparison games--as seen in your first statement, that you think others are much more effective in their communicating than you. And it can often go beyond that. Many children from single parent homes have some "distorted thinking" believing that anyone else and everyone else had it or has it "better." This is never the case, but it is often what is believed.

Also, I think there is a lot to unpack in your statement of how you stay quiet and observe others so that you are not taken advantage of. But I want to be careful here--I don't want to draw assumptions and dive too deep, but do think this is an interesting statement.

In reading these areas of confusion, timidity, and lack of self-assurance, these lead me to think that you may struggle with what I call "people pleasing" and may be unsure of who you are and what you believe--that is, what your value system is. To know who you are and who you want to be--even your legacy-- is the foundation on which we build good communication skills, identity, friend groups, and healthy relationships. It also helps to build confidence in your identity as man, as a black man, and a man that may enjoy being more of an introvert--that is to be celebrated! Not all people are to be men, introverted, or of one race. The beauty and diversity of our world should be celebrated! Celebrate the fact that you are a man, a black man, and that you are more observant--that is beautiful. 

So how can you succeed in social settings and have improved communication that draws people in rather than push them away?

1. I would encourage you to first do some healing work with accepting your past and accepting who you are in the present.

2. Give some thought to your value system and your future self. Who do you want to be? How do you start and how to finish those goals? What are you daily habits (looking for consistency here and routine) because daily habits accomplish your goals. What do you stand for? How do you want people to see you? What do you want to be known for? What do you believe? What do you want to accomplish with your life? Etc?

3. Create daily habits that honor caring for yourself and engaging with others.

4. Look for friends who are interested in you and desire to know you and also want to be known by you. Look for friends who are healthy--mentally, physically, and financially. Look for friends you can learn from and who can learn from you. You have more to offer than I think you may realize.

And if you would like to explore more of this in depth, I would be honored to work with you!

But I hope this at least gets you started in critically and reflectively thinking about you and who you want to be.