Effective communication is the cornerstone of relationships. This can mean romantic relationships, sibling relationships, work relationships, and even the brief relationships we have with the service professionals we encounter. As we navigate through the world interacting with others, we are constantly communicating in both spoken and unspoken respects.
Communication is more than just the exchange of information. It involves speaking and listening, as well as the conveyance and recognition of unspoken emotions.
If you’ve ever had a conflict with anyone (as we all have), then you know how difficult effective communication can be, particularly when emotions are running high. The good news is that good communication is a learnable skill, and it can have a huge positive impact on our lives. The better we are able to communicate, the more we improve our relationships with others, and the more likely that our emotional needs will be met.
Here are some key factors of good communication:
Good communication requires that each party be fully present with the other. Everyone wants to feel listened to and understood and taken seriously. Your focus will convey the message that you’re listening – or not. For instance, when your teenager says she wants to talk about something that happened at school, closing your laptop and keeping your eyes on her while she talks will tell her that you care what she has to say. Be sure to keep your mind engaged on her as well. Thinking about what to make for dinner or silently judging her while she speaks is not engaged listening even if your laptop is closed.
Open Body Language
The next time you are in a conflict with someone, pay attention to your body language and facial expressions. Even if you are expressing compassion or understanding with your words, your nonverbal signals may be contradicting you by sending a message of defensiveness or aggression. If so, this could thwart your attempt at good communication almost as much as outright defensiveness or aggression. Conversely, open body language that conveys positive feelings even when you’re not feeling positive can actually work in your favor and even change the way you feel. When you walk into a job interview, for example, overriding your nerves with a smile and a confident walk might inspire a smile in your interviewer, thus putting you more at ease.
Believe it or not, anger is allowed in good communication. But how we express our anger is really important. When we can express our anger in a healthy way that maintains respect for the other person as well as ourselves, it can serve to enhance our relationships. When we learn to express our anger without blame, name-calling, or deliberately hurtful remarks, the other party will be more willing to hear and understand us. Self-expression is great, but it’s also important that we do so in a way that the other person is willing to hear. When we can self-express in a respectful manner, that respect will be more likely to come our way as well.
In a moment of conflict, when emotions are running high, it can be difficult to engage in good communication. Remember, good communication is not just about you feeling heard but also allowing the other person to feel heard as well. If you attempt to communicate at a time when you are unwilling to listen, it won’t go well. Sometimes it is best to step back or walk away and give yourself (and the other person) time to calm down. If you wait until both parties are willing to listen, good communication will be more likely to take place.
Relationships are Important at Alvarado Parkway Institute
At Alvarado Parkway Institute in San Diego, we know how difficult good communication can be. We also know the positive and powerful impact it can have on family relationships. We promote family involvement in our patients’ care, and we offer a wonderful family program designed to help the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, and children of people with mental health disorders learn, work, and grow together.
For more information on our programs, services, and resources, please give us a call or fill out the contact form on our website.