Communication is a skill we use every single day. Preparing for my upcoming wedding and attending Precana this past weekend has me thinking a lot about communication, arguably the number one most important factor in a relationship. To me, healthy communication is the ability to clearly express how we feel. While it sounds so easy, when emotions and different opinions are added into the mix, effective communication becomes quite challenging. I know I’ve gotten pretty darn good at the silent treatment, but it really doesn’t get me anywhere near a resolution…so, I’m committing to be less silent and more communicative. Who’s with me?!
With the new season starting, it’s the perfect time to identify some personal goals and things to work on; communication is a great place to start. Whether you’ve been married for 50 years, you’re in a new relationship, or you just want to get along better with friends and family, communication is something we can all strengthen. Here are some tips on healthy communication and constructive arguments (adapted from A Decision to Love by John and Susan Midgley.)
1. Focus on you. We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. Instead of “you always/never do this,” use “I wish you would/wouldn’t ___ because it makes me feel ____.
2. Focus on your feelings instead of what others are doing wrong. Feelings aren’t debatable, we all feel how we feel and have the right to express them. Understand that arguing should be an opportunity to share and validate your feelings, not to prove right vs. wrong.
3. Deep breaths. Take a breath and a moment to collect yourself in order to remain calm. As soon as we lose our cool and get heated, that’s when things turn for the worst and communication becomes unhealthy and ineffective.
4. Take turns. Instead of a screaming match where nothing is heard because you’re both going at it at once, allow each other to finish the thought and then respond. It’s much cleaner that way.
5. Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. This will keep your attention and show respect. Looking at the person will also help to remind you that you’re upset about the disagreement, but that your feelings for the other person have not changed.
6. Keep it simple and focused. Argue about what you’re arguing about instead of bringing up past issues or other topics. Being direct can solve the problem at hand instead of leading into a blow-out fight where neither participant even knows why you’re fighting.
7. Remain respectful. Don’t bring up sensitive spots that don’t even relate just to knock the other person down. An argument can only be healthy when there’s a level of mutual respect. Cheap shots don’t get anyone anywhere.
8. Last but definitely not least: LISTEN. Yes, share your part, but really listen to what the other person has to say. They may just tell you something you didn’t know or change your perspective on the issue at hand. If nothing else, they deserve your attention when expressing their feelings and vice versa. Learning occurs through listening.
One Healthy Breakdown: Arguing is healthy, normal, and inevitable. We all do it. But is it constructive or destructive? Healthy or unhealthy?