Written By: Erinn McCabe, MS, LPC, SAS
I’ve been thinking a lot about communication lately; communication with family, friends and people in our community. Interactions with others have changed over the past few months in many ways but healthy communication should remain a priority. Healthy communication basically means being kind to one another even when we don’t agree with one another. Healthy communication can involve interactions without any words spoken at all; a smile to a stranger out for a walk, a hug from a loved one on a rough day, or a look of understanding and empathy given to someone in need. I really want to focus on verbal communication; engaging in listening, controlling your tone of voice and focusing on the words you’re choosing when interacting with others.
Think of healthy communication as the most effective way to let others know your feelings, thoughts, and needs. When we let others know what our experience is like it removes assumption, improves understanding, and makes the interaction more meaningful.
I’ve received feedback from some of my client’s over the years that they often feel vulnerable when sharing their feelings, thoughts and needs and so instead they keep things to themselves and what they’re experiencing is never understood, their problems go unresolved and they suffer in silence. We need to overcome the idea that having feelings means showing weakness. Letting others know what we need is a simple way to practice healthy self-care. If I let others know what I’m experiencing and what I need then there is a greater chance those needs will be met.
Let’s review some helpful tips for communicating clearly with others:
- When sharing how you feel, use an actual feeling, not an additional thought.
- Organize your thoughts before speaking.
- In difficult conversations don’t justify your poor actions or blame others; take responsibility.
- Share what you need out of the situation or what you need from the person you’re interacting with.
- Ensure your tone of voice helps the conversation and makes the other person feel safe to share their own thoughts.
- When you’re done sharing, stop talking and listen to the other persons experience without interruption.
I don’t want you to get the idea that healthy communication is solely for difficult topics of conversation. Letting others know your feelings, thoughts and needs in positive situations has it’s own purpose; it lets those you’re interacting with know what’s important to you, and in some ways, what they mean to you as well.
Here are some examples of statements using healthy communication:
- “I’m so happy right now. I just love spending time together. I would really like it if we could make plans to get together every week or two.”
- “I’m a little frustrated right now. I’ve asked for your help with this for the past few days now. Can you tell me when you’ll have time to help me with this and what your ideas are for getting it done?”
- “I’ve been so anxious lately. Everything that’s going on in the world is making life more difficult in so many ways. Can you please just hug me and let me know we’ll get through this together?”
- “I’m feeling so much more relaxed. When we take a break from everything else and just laugh and have fun together it makes everything easier. I would really like to have more time together like this.”
Notice how in each of the examples, the feelings, thoughts and needs of the individual are shared. Now the listener has all the information they need to respond appropriately.
We all experience situations differently and we’re doing the best we can during this difficult time. Let’s help one another by being empathetic, open-minded and willing to have a conversation to understand one another instead of judge one another. Above all, simply be kind to one another.