We all have a communication blueprint, but the goal in every conversation whether that’s at work or at home with your partner, is to be able to say what you mean, whilst also considering the other persons’ needs.
However, sometimes we’re apprehensive about saying what we really mean in case the other person harbours it against us, or in case it causes resentment rather than compassion and understanding. However, the more we’re unable to communicate what we need, the more likely conflict is to arise which leads to more disconnection.
Let’s start by looking at your communication habits, and how to transform unhealthy ones into healthy productive ways of saying what you truly mean.
Words by YK Daily's resident life coach Amira Mansour @the_communicationexpert
There are times we get defensive because we feel that we have to justify our actions. It can also be a common reaction if we’ve learnt this behaviour from a role model or caregiver. We can slip into this way of communicating when someone points something out in us that we don’t believe we can change. Instead of reacting in this way we want to use language that shows we can own our feelings. You’re allowed to feel how you feel; the key is taking ownership.
Communicating your needs in this way is likely to trigger a defensive reaction in the other person and isn’t the way you want to articulate what’s important for you. If you’re doing this at work your team and colleagues are likely to feel deflated and over time will lose morale. Don’t expect your partner or family to assume what you needs are either. Whilst you may have painted a picture that it’s romantic for them to be able to read your mind, it’s not actually fair or realistic.
There are times when we feel our wants and needs haven’t been met and we will respond in an unhealthy way. If you feel giving silent treatment is a valid response, it’s not actually giving the other person an opportunity to meet your expectations. There isn’t any harm in taking a time out and coming back to the conversation another time, but shutting down and saying nothing will leave your partner at a loss as to what the problem may be, or how to respond.
It’s equally unfair to communicate in a passive aggressive way. If you’re communicating what you need indirectly, or using sarcasm to get your point across, it could stem from a place of not feeling that you can voice how you feel. So, if you’re feeling unable to communicate your needs, it’s probably because you’ve seen it role modelled, learning from a young age to suppress what’s important to you. As you take this into adulthood it may feel uncomfortable to disagree or cause conflict with someone else, and this can stop you from having open, meaningful and authentic conversations.
How can you change this to communicate in a healthy way? The first step is being able to understand where this communication habit has come from. When do you think this behaviour started? How did your parents or care givers handle conflict in your home? And what did you observe as a result?
Once you’re aware of the pattern and where it has stemmed from, it’s about practicing and doing something differently. Will it feel uncomfortable? Probably. Will it feel scary? Possibly. And this is because you’re used to fighting your way through a response, avoiding the conversation at all costs so you don’t rock the boat, or even freezing and saying nothing at all because you can’t quite get your words out. Think about your brain as a computer that has been programmed. It simply needs reprogramming so your automatic response over time changes from a freeze, fight, flight or fawn to one that’s considered, and can say what you really mean. Let’s put this into practise.
It takes time to shift a habit, whether that’s ditching an old one or creating a new one. Setting yourself a huge, unrealistic goal is going to shock your nervous system and not help you in believing that communicating your needs is healthy. Find small ways to start introducing your opinions into conversations. If this is something you want to do more with your partner, share this with them and ask them to support suggestions you make until this becomes an embedded habit.
Timing Is Everything
Pick the ‘right’ time to share your needs both at home and work. This won’t always be possible to get right, however, ask yourself how the other person may be feeling when they receive this information, and give them a heads up to let them know that there’s something you would like to share.
Focus On Your Feelings
This sounds like, “I felt disconnected and [insert the emotion you’re feeling] when we didn’t spend time together at the weekend. I think this is because I enjoy it so much when we hang out”. Using this type of language shows you’re taking ownership for the way you feel and not blaming the other person.
Be Clear & Direct About Your Needs
Before trying to communicate what you mean, you have to be clear on what your needs are. For example, “It’s important to me that there’s a chance for me to share my ideas”. Spend time reflecting on what’s important to you in different areas of your life.
Discuss & Ask Questions
Communicating your needs isn’t a one-way conversation. Don’t be afraid to get into a discussion, ask the recipient if they have any ideas on how to approach things differently next time, if they have any questions or would like to clarify their understanding of what you have said.
Communicating your needs and being able to articulate what you mean allows you to have successful healthy relationships. So get clear on what your needs are in the different relationships you have, share them in a clear assertive way, choose an environment that supports a conducive conversation and leave the conversation with the other person understanding exactly what your needs are.
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