“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
We all long for relationship because we all want to be connected, seen, known, and loved. And yet, relationships are incredibly difficult. Whether it be your husband, wife, son, daughter, mom, dad, co-worker, or friend, communication break-downs will occur in every relationship and this most often leads to tension. What do we do in these moments of tension? Get angry? Attack? Run away? Avoid?
We all bring fear to the relationship. What are you most afraid of? Our expectations definitely get in the way. What do you expect of others? We see life through our own lens and that can cause us to miss the other person altogether. How have you seen this happen in your life? Everyone has a different personality and set of values shaping how they communicate and relate. What do you know about your personality and your values?
To “communicate” means to make known or to reveal by clear signs. In relationships, we are not always convinced that to be known or to reveal ourselves, our wishes, our desires, our thoughts, etc. is safe or good. It can help to have an understanding that it is okay to be disappointed. People are going to let us down. They cannot hold the weight of our desires. People we care about will more than likely miss us, or fail to understand us, from time to time.
Think about when you are the one who disappoints someone or fails to understand them. When you realize this, can you come face-to-face with them and say, “I’m sorry that I disappointed you. Can you forgive me? I care about you and I want to move forward in a better way. Can we try again?” This is an active effort to care about the relationship and the other person. It takes paying attention, admitting when you’re wrong, and being bold enough to communicate well. Relationships are well worth it—give it a try!
Here are some strategies to help you communicate better:
1. Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. Own your feelings and be willing to be honest about those rather than blaming or pointing out what the other person did.
2. Stay calm. Keep conversations calm. This may mean that you need to take a break and come back to it later. If so, state that. If someone says this to you, be willing to wait and take a deep breath yourself. Sometimes when things escalate, a time-out is just what is needed.
3. Actively listen. A concerted effort to slow down, take a deep breath, and be present with the other party communicating.
4. Restate or reframe. Restate what you heard the other person say to demonstrate your understanding.
5. Seek first to understand not to be understood. By not demanding your own desire to be understood and seeking to understand the other first, you can create a new way for healthy communication.
6. Be face-to-face. Avoid communicating over text messages or email especially when there is conflict. Approximately 55% of communication is nonverbal. So, body language is important when working out relationships.
7. Avoid criticism. Insults and negative body language can cause others to feel defensive, which prohibits a positive flow of communication.
8. Share appreciation. Communicating positive values and appreciation for the other person can break down the tension and remind everyone why you are in relationship to begin with.
Want more suggestions? Here are 4 tips for being fully present with others.