by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 15th August, 2018
Healthy communication is absolutely key for a healthy relationship. However, it doesn't come easily to everyone. Just like relationships in general, communication is something that has to be practiced, honed and worked on so that you can grow the skill and communicate more effectively.
In order to help you with gaining these skills, we're going to take a look into the differences between healthy and unhealthy communication as well as provide several tips towards communicating in an effective, healthy way that keeps you and your relationship intact.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy communication can sometimes be very clear, or it can sometimes be a bit hazy. This really depends on your unique experiences and feelings. However, it's very important to know the difference between the two.
For many, unhealthy communication allows negative emotions to escalate, creates negative feelings that don't need to be there and can make the situation more uncomfortable all around. They can include things like emotional abuse, manipulation, guilt trips, blaming, yelling and name calling. These kinds of behaviors don't solve problems, but instead deepen the rift.
Consequently, it's a good idea to pay close attention to the way you communicate with others, especially your partner. As equals, it's important for you to communicate in ways that aren't threatening or purposefully hurtful, so that both of you can be heard, understood and validated.
It's not abnormal or wrong to have concerns or disagreements. Sometimes feelings can get heated, but with healthy communication on your side you can learn how to resolve problems completely, efficiently and with the both of you feeling heard. Healthy communication can do a lot in the way of turning a relationship that seems to be headed nowhere in a completely new direction.
There are plenty of tips you can use to ensure the communication in your relationship is helpful and healthy. Just take the following pieces of advice into account, and remember to use some of them during your conversations with your partner.
The first thing to keep in mind is that as partners in a relationship, your goal is to build each other up rather than tear each other down. Don't belittle or criticize them for either real or potentially imagined faults, and don't try to purposefully make them feel bad.
Criticism wrecks your partner's self esteem, and it brings them to a state where they may no longer feel confident. This can include things like making rude comments about their weight or the way they look, or treating them poorly for doing a chore in a way that you find to be incorrect.
A key aspect of healthy communication is active listening. Listen carefully to your partner, whether they're talking about their day or something in the relationship that is bothering them. Show them that you are listening by reiterating what they've told you can also be helpful. Showing your partner that you're listening, also shows them that you care about what they're saying and therefore care about them. It's a lot more than just being able to regurgitate what they tell you, but allows you to understand them, and for them to feel they are important to you.
In the same vein as active listening, focusing on understanding your partner is another way to show them that you care about what they have to say, their feelings and their state of mind. In addition, it's a way to avoid steamrolling your partner with your own thoughts and feelings.
Give each other time to talk, so that each of you can express yourselves fully without feeling rushed, bullied or that what they are saying isn't important to you. This can help you to try to put yourselves in each other's shoes, and that will allow you to resolve the issue more effectively.
No matter how frustrated you might be, it's important to be gentle. This means pausing, taking a deep breath and expressing yourself in tactful, but respectful ways. Of course there are some serious cases where it can be extremely difficult to do so, but it's worthwhile overall.
It's also wise to remember that this doesn't mean not expressing your negative emotions. If you're feeling angry or frustrated, it's perfectly okay to say so. The idea is to avoid saying something harsh, or treating your partner in a way that you may regret after the fact.
"I" statements are a great way to express how you feel without running the risk of blaming your partner. For an example of this kind of statement, consider "I feel angry when you leave dishes in the sink". It expresses your feeling as well as why the feeling is occuring.
From this kind of a statement, you can work towards a resolution that will resolve the negative feelings. It also keeps your partner from feeling attacked, which can result in them reacting in a defensive way rather than working together to find a solution. The next time you're in a disagreement, it's worth a try!
This tip goes in line with active listening. Asking open-ended questions can show your significant other that you're interested in something about them and want to know more. It's a great way to get into a deeper conversation and learn something you may not have known before.
As a result, your partner will be likely to recognize the interest you take in them. Overall, this can help to create a deeper bond in the relationship, and you may find that they begin to follow suit with their own open-ended questions to learn more about you.
While you may share a close bond with your partner, they aren't going to be able to fix every negative feeling you may be experiencing, especially if it's something that involves them. Consequently, it's a good idea to learn how to self-soothe so that you can calm down and discuss a problem with them.
You may find that you need to try out a few different things in order to find what best helps you to soothe yourself. These things can include blowing off steam by working out, taking a bath and listening to calm music, or even multiple things depending on the emotions you're experiencing.
Leaving arguments on a sour note can create resentment within your relationship, as well as allow remaining anger or frustration to build. Instead, it's best to work together to resolve arguments completely, in a healthy way as much as possible.
If you are unable to resolve the argument at that time, it's important to leave it healthfully. Remind each other that you care, and agree to pick up the conversation at a later time. Make sure that you agree on a time together so that one partner doesn't feel like the issue is simply being dropped.
Don't forget to appreciate one another. Regardless of the disagreements you may have, it's important to remind each other that the argument isn't the epitomy of the relationship, it's just something within it. Ultimately, the relationship is more important and the love you share deserves to be noted.
So even if it's something small, make sure to remind your partner that you appreciate them. Leaving them feeling like they are taken for granted can do a lot of damage to the relationship over time. Even a quick note or text can go a long way to let them know how much they mean to you.
You have feelings, and those feelings are valid. Your partner has feelings, and they are also valid. A disagreement between you doesn't mean that one of you is having feelings that are invalid. It simply means that your feelings are clashing, which is perfectly normal among two different people.
Each partner has experiences, thought processes and feelings that are an accumulation of their lives. These things can lead to different opinions or beliefs on certain things. As a result, it's important to make sure that you're addressing each other in a way that doesn't make them feel invalidated.
When negative feelings abound, it can be difficult not to ruminate on the problems, or on negative thoughts about your significant other. In some cases, it can feel like you're overwhelmed by your frustration or anger with them, but it's important to keep in mind that isn't all there is to them.
When you're feeling these emotions, it's wise to remember the positive things about your partner. Don't forget that you love them, or why you love them. In most cases, an argument can be frustrating, but it's just one small part of the overall relationship.
Taking responsibility for the wrongs you may have committed is absolutely essential for a healthy relationships. It's also important to remember that just because you may not have intended any harm through that action, doesn't mean that harm didn't come as a result of it.
Don't try to blame the situation on your significant other for being "too sensitive" or "not having a sense of humor". These are incredibly invalidating statements, and they show that you don't really care about how your partner feels. Instead, seek to understand what they are feeling and apologize for the behavior that brought about those feelings.
Even if you're frustrated with one another, it's important to not use physical affection as a weapon. This can range from stopping intimacy to avoiding even hugs and smaller touches. While you may be angry with one another, this kind of isolation isn't helpful to the relationship overall.
That said, it's okay to feel like you need a break from that physical affection when feelings are running high. What's recommended at that time, is to give each other a little time to cool off if you can. Then, once the negative emotions have decreased, don't forget physical appreciation.
It's perfectly okay to take breaks when things are beginning to get too intense in an argument. In fact, it can be a healthy way for both partners to cool down, center their thoughts and feelings and then return to the conversation when the both of you are calmed.
If you avoid these breaks, then negative feelings can start to take control of the conversation. This can lead to the possibility of one or both of you behaving in ways you'll regret later. In order to ensure that the argument is as productive as possible, give yourselves breaks from them to calm down.
Overall, it's important to keep the balance in your relationship. Don't forget about the big picture. Arguments can sometimes feel all-consuming, but in many cases they are just a small aspect of a larger, loving relationship. Consequently, it's important to take a step back from the disagreement when you can and remember why you're with your significant other.
Naturally, there can be some cases where you may not be able to remember why you're with them, or the reasons have faded. This too can be a great way to re-center yourself and consider what you really want, and whether or not that relationship is continuing to provide it.
Arguments can be a struggle, and healthy communication isn't something that comes naturally to everyone. However, it's important to make sure healthy communication is a staple in your relationship so that you can avoid the messiness that overwrought emotions can bring.
The next time you're having a disagreement, try to remember some of these tips. You're unlikely to start off perfectly, so don't expect that from yourself or your partner. If you can, select one or two at a time that effect your relationship most, and address those first.