You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. – M. Scott Peck
June is Effective Communications Month. Although often applied to business situations, effective communication is also necessary for healthy relationships of all types: within families, among friends, and between couples. How can a person be an effective communicator and maintain strong, healthy relationships? Let’s explore six ideas:
- Be a good listener. Although we all like to get our personal point across, make sure you also LISTEN to what the other person has to say. Respect is critical in all healthy relationships, personal and business, and one positive way to show respect is to listen to the other person. And, actively listen – don’t just “fake it to make it” or be impatient, sigh, or cross your arms as if you’re bored or closing the other person down. Active listening means focusing on what the other person is saying, nodding your head and verbally engaging at appropriate times.
- Part of being a good listener (and a person who shows respect for another) is to set down your electronic devices. Focus on the person, not the phone, tablet, or computer screen.
- Empathize, clarify and understand. Paraphrase or summarize what you think you’ve heard by saying-in your own words-what you understand the other person said. Ask for clarification if the other person responds, “That’s not what I said,” or “That’s not what I meant.”
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be consistent and genuine, but in a positive way. No one likes bullies, and no one wants to be bullied, but people respect others who have integrity and follow-through.
- Establish and maintain trust through honesty. According to a recently published article regarding communication within families, “Without trust, families cannot build strong relationships.” Without openness and honesty, there is no trust, and without trust, a healthy relationship cannot exist. That is true in families, between couples, and within the work place.
- Avoid attacking the other person personally. Accusations and a critical tone make people defensive and therefore, effective communication can be lost. According to LoveisRespect.org, “Using ‘you’ can sound like you’re attacking, which will make the other person defensive and less receptive to your message. Instead, try using ‘I’ or ‘we.’ For example, say ‘I feel like we haven’t been as close lately’ instead of ‘You have been distant with me.’”
In addition to the basic human needs for food, water, and shelter, everyone needs a sense of connection. We belong to groups, such as hiking and biking groups. We post to social media. We have friends we hang out with. But, sometimes we put ourselves above others – it’s a natural human flaw because we all want to be heard and we all want to feel important. We want to be loved and respected. But, instead of putting ourselves first, if we apply the Golden Rule to our relationships (doing to others as we’d like them to do to us – treating others with respect, kindness, compassion) – we are likely to have healthier more effective communication and relationships.
True Care offers a program on healthy self and healthy relationships. Women learn how to take better care of themselves and make healthy choices, physically and emotionally. The program is incentive-based, which means after going through the five to seven class sessions, you receive a gift card. To learn more, contact our Program Director, Rebecca, at 472-2810, ext. 12.
Read more about effective communication and healthy relationships from these websites: