Say What You Need to Say: Communication—The Personal Side
Positive, thoughtful, honest and deliberate communication is something I strive for in each of my relationships. Now, I do not share my deepest thoughts and feelings with each person in my life. And I certainly do not always tell the more difficult people in my life just how incredibly difficult they are. BUT, I do try to be honest, authentic and assertive on a daily basis.
Assertiveness is an essential element of good communication. Merriam-Webster defines “assertive” as: “characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” When I am communicating well I make assertive statements that respectfully and honestly convey my thoughts and feelings. The trouble occurs when I become passive or aggressive in my communication patterns and leave assertiveness behind.
Let me explain. I feel many people (myself included at times—though less so with age and practice) have the tendency to be passive or aggressive when communicating. Maybe you are passive and don’t always say what you need to say. Or maybe you are aggressive and say too much. Or maybe—like one of my good friends—you are both. One of my best friends says that she tends to be passive, but then her emotions build up over time and she ends up lashing out at her closest family members. Wherever you find yourself on the “passive—assertive—aggressive spectrum,” I believe most people fall more to the left or more to the right.
Whether you are passive or aggressive, there are several communication skills you can learn and implement to become more assertive and improve the quality of your relationships. Here are a few things you can try to improve your communication skills.
- Don’t interrupt or talk over the person.
- Really listen to the other person. Repeat back to them what they said to make sure you heard correctly before sharing your thoughts and feelings.
- Be kind. Don’t use words or tones that you would not use with a beloved, elderly grandmother.
- Use “I statements.” When expressing your feelings always begin with “I feel.” For example, “I feel lonely and sad when you go out after work each night and I am home with just the kids.” NOT—“You go out every night and leave me here alone.”
- Find a licensed mental health counselor to teach you even more skills and practice these skills with you in session.
Becoming a great communicator is a lifelong process. Learning and perfecting good communication skills results in a happier and healthier life. Counseling is a great place to learn and practice communication skills because it is a safe, warm and inviting environment. If you are struggling in one or more relationships, or having trouble communicating well in general, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to make an appointment.