(40) Healthy Communication – 4 Steps to a Strong Relationship

healthy communication

Healthy communication is a two-way-street without signs, and absolutely necessary for the foundation of a strong relationship.

“Of all the skills we develop… communicating is one that we’ve been practicing since birth. And yet it often gets in our way, causes stress, and leaves us at a loss. We too frequently miscommunicate, obfuscate the point, cause an unintended reaction, or avoid a messy discussion altogether.” 

(Hedges, 2011, Online) 

So What is Healthy Communication?

Communication happens when we share information through verbal or nonverbal cues and the information being shared is understood by the parties involved. Healthy communication is the ability to share emotions, feelings, thoughts, and desires,  what we like and don’t like in a clear, considerate, and understandable way without being, disrespectful, hateful, or demanding.

Every error in communication, misunderstanding, we experience comes from a difference of reference or definition.

  1. Lack of clarity falls into
    1. Relationship label
    2. Relationship story or definition
    3. An assumption about which Value is important
    4. An assumption about the degree of importance for the value
  1. The 4 Horsemen (John Gottman) are instruments for controlling uncertainty and avoiding difficult conversations (which when not mitigated, lead to greater conflict).
    1. Criticism
      1. “Stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partners’ personality.”
    2. Defensiveness
      1. “Self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victim-hood. Wards off a perceived attack.”
    3. Contempt
      1. “Statements that come from a relative position of superiority.”
    4. Stonewalling
      1. “Emotional withdrawal from interaction.”
healthy communication

Steps for Healthy Communication

  1. Be clear about what you Value
    1. What is important at this moment?
    2. Recognize that more than one thing is important and may influence how you reflect on a decision later
  2. Learn the Story of your partner
    1. Ask clarifying questions
    2. What is the history with that Value?
    3. What are even the seemingly irrational Stories being felt?
  3. Ask your partner to restate your message, shared understanding facilitates healthy communication
    1. After clarification, have partner repeat back in their own words
    2. Acknowledge that similar word choices do not always carry the same meaning
  4. Apply grace often (A.G.O instead of EGO)
    1. Acknowledge and Accept that you’ll never understand your partner perfectly. Perfect knowledge would be to literally be in their head, not your own, and given the role of the unconscious in decision-making, it wouldn’t be all that helpful anyway
    2. Take a deep breath and give the benefit of the doubt or at least the best interpretation, unless repeated behavior says otherwise

Utilizing the steps for healthy communication will lead to a stronger relationship foundation. Practice these skills in calm moments and with less charged topics before tackling more emotional issues.

“As you think so shall you be! Since you cannot physically experience another person, you can only experience them in your mind.

Conclusion: All of the other people in your life are simply thoughts in your mind. Not physical beings to you, but thoughts. Your relationships are all in how you think about the other people of your life. Your experience of all those people is only in your mind. Your feelings about your lovers come from your thoughts.

For example, they may in fact behave in ways that you find offensive. However, your relationship to them when they behave offensively is not determined by their behavior, it is determined only by how you choose to relate to that behavior. Their actions are theirs, you cannot own them, you cannot be them, you can only process them in your mind.”

— Wayne Dyer

References:

Hedges, K. (2011) Five communication mistakes that are holding you back. Retrieved January 19, 2013 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2011/07/15/five-communication-mistakes-that-are-holding-you-back/

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