Dialogue is an important aspect of human connection. It is through conversation that people get to know one another, bond, build trust, show sympathy or support, and laugh among other things that assist in the construction of a relationship. Since conversing with someone is so important to the relationship it is imperative that it is healthy and constructive.
How can you have constructive and healthy communication in your relationship?
- Time is of the essence. The saying, “Timing is everything” is true in life and communication. If you want to have a hard conversation choosing the right time is crucial. Don’t try to speak on a serious matter when one or both of you are angry, stressed, distracted, or under the influence of alcohol. We tend to say things we don’t mean in those circumstances when emotions are high which only makes things worse.
- Say “I feel.” We have a tendency when we are in the midst of a conflict with another to talk at them in absolutes. “You always…” or “You should…” are typical sentence starters. Instead of focusing on the other person and what they are doing, speak from the standpoint of how their actions and behavior make you feel. For example rather than saying, “You always leave your stuff lying around, and I am always cleaning up after you” you could say, ” I feel stressed about how messy the house is, and I feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping it clean.” The former blames the person which results in them feeling a need to defend themselves. Once a person gets defensive, they will be less willing to listen to you. The latter focuses on your feelings and how you’re being affected, framing it this way helps the other person to see things from your perspective.
- Honesty is always best. It is always better, to be honest. People respect you more if you are truthful with them. You don’t have to speak maliciously; you can get your point across without going to those lengths. It is also necessary to be mindful of how you respond when people are honest with you. I recognized a few years back that I often became defensive or overly emotional when someone was telling me something I didn’t want to hear. As a result, I noticed that people would try to soften the information they were telling me to avoid my negative reaction. I had to train myself to be more open-minded and understand that what the person was saying wasn’t a personal attack.
- Open your ears and close your mouth. We spend a lot of the time when the other person is speaking thinking about what we are going to say next rather than listening to what they are saying. A way to practice more active listening is to recite back to the person what you heard them say. Many times you will find what they said and what you heard do not align. By doing this, you can gain a better understanding of the other person’s point of view.
- Speak face-to-face. We as a society have become much more comfortable speaking our minds digitally. It’s easier to send a text or email about an awkward conversation than having one face-to-face because you have the ability to take your time, think it through, and edit as you go. The downside to this method is there are ample opportunities to misinterpret what the person is trying to say. Misinterpretation can cause further damage. We often discount how important body language, tone, and facial expressions are in ensuring the message conveyed is the message received. While face-to-face isn’t always easy, it can assist in preventing conflict in the long run.
Try out these tips and hopefully you will find yourself having healthier and more constructive communication in your relationships.