When talking about healthy communication, a wise client once told me, after we had been working on communication for a while, “I have realized that I have three ways of responding. I ignore. I go along to get along, saying, ‘Sure, whatever.’ Or I react angrily. I can see I need to find more ways to respond.” He couldn’t have been more right. We chuckled and agreed that it was time to expand his repertoire.
To create great relationships, healthy communication is essential. In my experience, it’s time for most people to expand their communication repertoire. Countless people struggle with communicating. Some hate conflict and try to avoid it at all cost. So they often ignore issues, silence their voices, and bury their heads in the proverbial sand. As you might imagine, this kind of silencing and ignoring issues just perpetuates those issues. Another subgroup of people get heated when issues show up. They tend to blow up, bully, intimidate, throw tantrums, and do what they can to shut others and the conversation down. They move in power over others and try to squash them to get what they want. This response not only doesn’t lead to a solution, it results in disconnection and often pain. In contrast to those who bully through issues, are those who often respond to upset by trying to be super nice, placating, and accommodating. It’s as though they are trying to “nice” people into submission. “Nicing” people into giving in often leads to resentment, and rarely resolves issues.
If you tend to respond to disagreements, conflict or upsets by using any of these three approaches, it’s definitely time to change your routine. Communication, at it’s best, is respectful, connecting and effective. At it’s worst, communication is disconnecting and damaging. If your communication game plan isn’t bringing you to solutions—and closer to others—chances are you’re not communicating in a way most favorable to you and your relationships.
Optimal communication starts with mutual respect and an openness to understanding what the other person has to say. When both people are willing to hear the other person’s thoughts, it creates a dialogue where insight can happen. If one or both of you are interested only in your own point of view, then you are in a monologue. Progress seldom happens with monologues. Too many people engage in monologues and then wonder why the conversation, and eventually the relationship, went awry. While you don’t have to agree with what the other person says, you are responsible for hearing and understanding the message they’re trying to convey. If you’re shutting down, you’re forcing the other person into a monologue, and if you’re moving in power over others, you’re creating your own monologue. Stop the monologues; have the conversations.
Challenge: Healthy communication takes courage, tenacity, and grit. Find the courage to respectfully stay in even the most difficult of conversations.