Expressing how you’re feeling in a conversation, expressing your interest in the needs of the person you are communicating with, and expressing empathy in your response are keys to having a successful and satisfying friendships, marriages, and so much more.
Have you ever started a conversation with a co-worker or spouse, and then wondered how it escalated into an argument? Sometimes, our communication skills can be to blame for an argument, so let’s look at some healthy communication tips today.
Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned psychotherapist, is famous for his 40 years of work in families and relationships. He has shared three tips for having a healthy and intimate conversation.
- Put Your Feelings into Words - Putting your feelings into words can be difficult. Sometimes you just WANT people to know what you want or need. Or, you may think that people “should” already know how you are feeling. Most of the time though, that isn’t the case. Don’t be defensive, just realize that you have a relationship (whether you’d like to or not!) with the person you are trying to communicate with. Make specific requests instead of criticizing, take responsibility rather than get defensive, and express your feelings and needs instead of acting with contempt. If the situation is becoming too tense, take a time-out to calm down instead of stonewalling. Practice self-soothing techniques, such as focusing on your breathing and relaxing parts of your body that feel tense, and then revisit the conversation.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions - For example you might say, “Tell me how you would prefer me to handle this situation.” This provides the opportunity to open up in a safe space - expressing thoughts and opinions in this way can build trust and a long lasting relationship.
- Express Empathy - We may not agree entirely with an expressed opinion. But we can pause for a moment. Try to see other’s point of view, give the benefit of the doubt, and care more about others than ourselves.
We’ve all heard it said that communication is key. Expressing how you’re feeling in a conversation, expressing your interest in the needs of the person you are communicating with, and expressing empathy in your response are keys to having a successful and satisfying friendships, marriages, and so much more. And there is research to prove it!
If you’d like to learn more about the knowledge and skills needed for better relationships, take a look at Getting Our Hearts Right.
So what could you do this week to create a healthier habit of communicating? Maybe just pause. Ask an open-ended question such as, “Tell me what you’re thinking about Saturday.” Or try not get defensive when someone can’t read your mind. Just try doing one thing this week to communicate better.
Students from Dr. Denise Fisher's Family Life Education class at Harding University will be guest writers this spring. This week's post was written by Kyndell Tabor. Kyndell is a senior at Harding University from Crossville, Tennessee and is studying Family Life Education. She will be attending the Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate program in the Fall at Harding University. Some of her hobbies include: camping and rock climbing with her husband, hot yoga, and high intensity interval training work outs.