Almost everyone can talk, but not everyone can communicate effectively. Some people find verbal expression enjoyable, while some use fewer words when expressing emotions, feelings, desires or values. I have taken the time to reflect on the way I pass my messages across to others in my quest to understand why relationships are strained by unresolved unhealthy arguments, strife, and misunderstanding.
Now, without doubt, I’ve realised that most of us do not communicate well. It sounds like a cliché, but communication is indeed one of the most important ingredients for any lasting relationship.
Interestingly, I am an extrovert, and I talk a lot when excited about a subject. However, I realised that I was really poor at expressing myself, especially on important matters. I can now write on this topic because this is one area I struggled with, and I believe the lessons I have learnt is worth sharing.
Effective communication is necessary when building relationships, sharing ideas, managing responsibilities, parenting, and much more. There is hardly any area of life or career path that effective communication is not needed. However, this article focuses on communication in the context of personal relationships (marriage or friendship).
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I believe healthy communication in a relationship is the act of passing information, needs, or concerns to your partner (or friends) clearly and concisely. However, it takes all the parties involved to do it the right way. Being an introvert or extrovert doesn’t make you a good communicator. A lot of talk does not mean a lot of information is being exchanged.
It goes without saying that communication is a skill that is worth building. Until one gets intentional about improving this area of one’s life, one may not see the desired result in one's relationship. For any lasting relationship, certain things are important to note, and effective communication always makes it to the priority list.
When I set out to work on my communication skills, I read quite a few articles and watched several YouTube® videos on effective communication. All the information and knowledge that I gained pointed to me as the problem. I needed to be better for others. The crux of the message was always about what I should or need to do for my partner to be happy and for the relationship to work.
But I wonder what’s in it for me.
Why should I do all the work, learn all the tips and tricks, bend over and backwards just for the other party to understand me. Why go through all that stress and mental gymnastics just to be understood?
"However, the moment I speak about it, a part of me is relieved, even before the solution comes. That’s what communication does for me."
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to want to make your partner happy. However, I believe it’s equally best if you understand what you also stand to gain for yourself. So, this is the perspective I choose to look at it; and from this view, I think there are many goodies for everyone.
So what do I stand to gain by communicating clearly?
#1. Mental rest
I have started seeing communication as something I need to do effectively for the good of my mental health. You need to see it in that light too. Whenever there is a piece of information I need to share, or there is an unresolved issue or a pressing desire that I refuse to talk about, it lingers on my mind leading me to keep thinking about it again and again.
However, the moment I speak about it, a part of me is relieved, even before the solution comes. That’s what communication does for me. That is what it would do for you. It frees up space in your mind, and it gives room for clarity and focus. I want to believe this is the reason we go to counselling or seek therapy, to offload our minds. Healthy and effective communication gives you mental rest. Always remember that.
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#2. A lasting bond
I don’t know anyone who is allergic to a healthy relationship, and I have seen what a stronger bond can do in improving a relationship. Healthy communication creates a bond in your relationship. Every conversation you have is an event, and you would always remember the circumstances surrounding that event, especially if handled excellently.
Trust me, you will be happier to see your relationship grow not only in terms of its longevity but also in the strength of the bond you both share. This is something that has worked in my relationship, and I believe it is fundamental to strengthening a healthy relationship.
"...I want to believe this is the reason we go to counselling or seek therapy, to offload our minds. Healthy and effective communication gives you mental rest. Always remember that."
Have you ever been in a situation where all along you assumed you had all the facts figured out and then you communicate with your partner, only to realise all you had were assumptions? Please tell me I am not alone here.
Communication gives you clarity. As you communicate, you gain a better understanding of each other’s minds and find loopholes in your thoughts. Most of the conflicts in relationships are usually based on unstated assumptions and unaddressed expectations. The more you communicate, the more you align in values, thoughts, and lifestyle, hence, building a lasting relationship.
You may be wondering why I keep mentioning healthy communication. It is important to note that not all communication is healthy, as hateful and undesirable utterances can be communicated. Besides, there are verbal and non-verbal cues that may be sent or received during communication that could be quite unhealthy for the parties involved. Therefore, to ensure healthy communication, I have a few tips to share:
There is a saying that nobody ever changes their mind by getting shouted at. If the intention is to effectively pass across your point of view, then you should always give room for open and honest conversations, and the process should not be seen as a zero-sum game. Avoid the famous NBS- Naming, Blaming and Shaming your partner.
Understand/respect each other’s communication style
It is important to understand that couples may not communicate the same way; time and space are very important factors that determine how receptive individuals may be to new ideas. Therefore, always pay attention to the ‘timing’ and ‘tone’ when communicating. These “T’s” make a lot of difference.
According to Bryant H. McGill, one of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what others have to say. Listening breeds understanding and respect.
Addressing the issue always helps in resolving the root cause. Addressing issues in a healthy manner involve knowing the right questions to ask. This also helps in keeping the focus on “WHY”, much more than the “WHAT”. For instance, “Why are you always distracted” sounds better than “what are you always busy doing with your cell phone.”
I strongly feel that having a way to track important resolutions after effective communication is key. That is, keeping a record of issues resolved and the solutions proffered. This is to avoid addressing the same issues over and over again—that could result in nagging and other related issues.
These are some of the things that I have practised, with good results. Please leave the tips that have worked for you in the comment section. I would love to read your perspective on this subject. Always remember to keep dazzling!
Mrs. Opeyemi Ayodeji is a teacher, mother, content creator, and a personal growth enthusiast. She has a bachelor's degree in Economics Education. She is an advocate for the girl-child emancipation, and she is passionate about helping young women discover their purpose.