Strong communication skills are vital for building and maintaining healthy relationships, whether it be with friends, family, a partner, or anyone else in your life. Healthy communication is all about trust, honesty, respect, and listening. Effective communicators are not just good at expressing their thoughts and feelings; they are also skilled at listening and truly hearing what the other person has to say. Often when the other person is speaking, we are busy thinking of what we want to say next and waiting for our turn to talk instead of taking in the message the other person is trying to convey. A good communicator understands the importance of respectful listening for a healthy relationship. After all, healthy communication is a two-way street.
Communication may seem easy when both sides agree, but healthy communication can be a lot harder during a conflict or a disagreement. Though it may seem difficult, it is possible to have a tough conversation where everyone involved still feels safe, respected, and heard. Healthy communication takes practice, so here are a few communication tips that can help.
- Use “I” statements. Instead of saying “You make me upset,” say things like “I felt upset when you _____.” Using language that centers your feelings will help to avoid placing blame or making the other person feel defensive.
- Don’t yell. Yelling is verbal violence. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break from the conversation. Come back when you’ve both had a chance to cool down.
- Be honest. No one can read your mind, so it’s important to be honest and open. Don’t just push aside your feelings if there are things that are bothering you. Be honest with the other person so they understand your thoughts and needs.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand what someone is saying, or if you aren’t sure what they mean, ask! Making assumptions can lead to miscommunications and bigger problems down the road.
- Apologize when you’re in the wrong. It’s unlikely you’ll be right in every disagreement you have, and that’s okay — everyone makes mistakes! Saying sorry and meaning it can go a long way towards resolving a conflict. When apologizing, take ownership of what happened without blaming the other person for your actions.
The ability to communicate with the people in our lives in a healthy way plays a huge part in the development of successful relationships. At the Katie Brown Educational Program, we help youth to build and maintain these relationships by providing them with the tools needed to communicate and resolve conflicts in healthy ways. Healthy communication isn’t about winning or getting your way — it’s about being there for each other and solving a problem together.