What intimate relationships most desperately need is skilled communication. Communicating well together is an essential skill; without it there is no happy and healthy relationship.
Actually, all human interactions require the ability to communicate effectively. Now more than ever.
Flashback to a time in my life when - without being aware of it - I held the belief that communicating well was a matter of eloquence and of being direct.
“If I don’t sweep it under the rug, and if I find a way to explain well what I mean to say, everything should work just fine, right?”
After multiple relationship problems in my teens and twenties followed by exploring what went wrong over the following years, I learned that what makes communicating with another person not only effective but fulfilling is taking into account the underlying emotional dimension of what is being shared (and not shared) and building/nurturing the emotional connection within the relationship.
Good communication is not just about facts, and it’s definitely not just about “getting it out”.
Good communication builds emotional intimacy, and emotional intimacy is the foundation of good communication. It’s the virtuous cycle. The opposite is also true. Bad communication leads to disconnection in the relationship, and disconnection negatively affects communication. It’s the vicious cycle.
Developing the following competencies leads to effective and fulfilling communication with others:
1. Exploring feelings
A lot of conversations taking place within close relationships involve feelings, opinions and needs. It’s difficult to communicate well if we don’t know what we are feeling because it means that we're not aware of our underlying motivation. Also, if we’re not able to be in touch with our own feelings, it’s going to be impossible to take into account someone else’s feelings.
2. Developing mindfulness
Because the most difficult conversations involve painful feelings, developing our mindfulness allows us to be present to these difficult emotions while remaining engaged with the other person. Mindfulness leads to the ability to pause and choose how to respond, rather than lashing out and/or withdrawing from the conversation.
3. Listening deeply
Skillful communication starts with listening to the other person’s point of view. It’s about refraining from assumptions and being curious while putting our own needs on the backburner until we understand the other person better.
4. Talking with compassion
Sometimes we have to say something that might activate negative feelings for the other person. In such cases, the way we talk verbally and non-verbally deeply affects the shared emotional connection. Learning how to speak up in a way that is timely, authentic and compassionate is essential to build and nurture our emotional connection with the other person.
5. Being patient
Skillful communication requires patience. First off, it takes time to learn how to communicate well and our skills might go through ups and down depending on what we go through at any given time. Secondly, while some conversations will be completed in one sitting (or walking : ) session, the most difficult ones will need multiple sit-downs and will most likely require trying different ways to express what we want to communicate to the other person. Patience is key to communication success.
Develop your communication skills. Flourish in love!