Proper communication is one of the corner-stones of a healthy relationship. Like many of the fundamentals, it’s a skill we tend to learn by osmosis as children, the level of that skill having a lot to do with who we grew up around. Children usually model themselves after their same-sex parent, and adopt many of that particular parent’s characteristics in their quest to find their own person. These characteristics are often ingrained by family and societal dynamics, and stay with us into adulthood. This helps to explain why we see generations of men who are “emotionally unavailable”, and generations of women who are “overly emotional” as examples. The key is to find that middle ground when we communicate with each other, and to always keep in mind that communication is about the greater good. It’s not just about having your own needs met, but the other person’s as well, so that both are at peace with each other within the relationship.
Tips for Healthy Communication:
1. Pick the right time. If you’re feeling very highly charged emotionally, chances are you’ll be unable to have a rational discussion. Really think about what you want to get out of communicating your feelings – do you simply want a reaction to feed your own anger and fear, or do you truly want to solve the problem? A conversation started calmly will have a much better success rate.
2. Never engage in name-calling, blaming, or derogatory language. This immediately shows that you have no respect or compassion towards the other person, which will make healthy communication impossible. Express only the facts, and your true emotions and feelings.
3. Allow one person to speak at a time, and allow that person to communicate their entire thought. Interrupting shows that you only care about your own opinions – breathe through your reactions and stay calm. You may think you know how the other person feels, but the point is to let them speak, get it off their chest and to let them know they are being heard. If you offer this respect, you’re far more likely to get it in return.
4. Once the other person had spoken, repeat back to them what they’ve said. This will immediately bring to the light any misunderstandings in your interpretation. If you did misinterpret what was said, further clarity should be given at this point, again with you listening and not interrupting, and again with you repeating what you heard.
5. When it is your turn to speak, be concise. Truly know what the issue is – we often argue and disagree about silly things as a vehicle to communicate a more serious underlying issue. Be brave with your feelings; it can make us feel very vulnerable to be completely honest, but you will never truly resolve conflict without honesty. Again, stay calm, try not to let your fear overtake a rational discussion and change it into an emotional blow-up.
6. If things to start to get out of hand and voices get raised etc., walk away. Take a break – don’t feed the anger which is most peoples’ instinct. This never solves anything, and it’s in these states of anger that irreparable damage can be done, when we blurt out things that are cruel and that we don’t really mean.
7. After you’ve cooled off, apologize, and schedule a time where you can try resolving the issue once again, using the same steps.