Communication is our lifeline when it comes to connecting with others. There are ways to be more mindful of how we communicate and strategies we can better utilize to help strengthen our relationships with loved ones. Healthy engagement in communication means balancing listening, exploring, sharing, and mindfulness during interactions.
Good listening shows someone that it is safe to become emotionally vulnerable and share with you. Good listening means maintaining eye contact, paying attention, and making minimal interruptions. Eliminate distractions such as your cell phone and give your undivided attention. It also shows you are listening when you acknowledge what the person is saying and ask follow-up questions.
Asking follow-up questions is also part of exploring. When a friend asks how you are doing, be sure to check in with how they are doing in different areas of their life. Maybe even ask a question about something they have previously mentioned to you. This helps keep communication reciprocal. It shows you take an interest in their life and wellbeing, and that you care to remember things they have previously shared with you.
Sharing your own feelings is also very important to deepening relationships. By making yourself vulnerable you allow for the development of emotional intimacy in the relationship. Another part of sharing is healthy confrontation. When we are honest about our own emotional needs in a relationship, or about a conflict in a relationship, we can deepen our connection with that person. By holding back on confronting conflict we may become passive aggressive, hold resentment, or feel our needs being unmet. It is healthy to confront difficult feelings and have challenging discussions. Ultimately this will lead to stronger and more satisfying relationships.
Before reacting to someone, be mindful of their intent and their own sensitivities before choosing how you would like to respond. It is also important to try to be mindful if you are picking up on the other person holding back some of their feelings. Try to assure them that this is a safe space for them to express how they are feeling even if the conversation may be difficult.
Ultimately it is very important to be mindful of your own communication skill set and practice healthy communication skills lifelong. Consider learning more about your own communication style in therapy.