Research shows that good communication can improve relationships, increase trust, intimacy, and support. The opposite can also be true; poor communication can weaken relationships and create mistrust. Relationships fail every day because of a lack of communication skills. We either don’t know how to communicate or we simply aren’t interested in learning. All relationships, at one time or another, experience stress. When this happens it is vital that we have the tools and skills necessary to deal with these issues in a positive and productive way. Many people don’t realize that they are being unreceptive in their communication skills and eventually their negative communication leads to increased stress. Examples of unhealthy communication include:
Avoidance: Some people don’t say anything to their partner about their frustrations because they want to avoid a conflict altogether. They are indirect and never clearly state their purpose or intention, they don’t ever really get to the point. Tension builds up, frustrations increase, and ultimately one of the partner’s will explode and blurt things out in anger.
Antagonism: When people become defensive they are quick to deny any wrongdoing and refuse to accept the fact that they may have contributed to the problem. People that are antagonistic become aggressive, hostile, and angry.
Passiveness: The passive person in a relationship generally feels reserved and fearful and tends to use non-verbal communication. Rather than speaking they will use body language to get a message across. By being passive you hide your purpose and expect your partner to be able to interpret you underlying message.
Unresponsiveness: When someone is unresponsive it shows that they have little or no interest in the needs and wants of their partner. In being unresponsive, people “forget” to listen and don’t truly empathize with their partner’s needs.
Assertive communication can strengthen your relationship, reduce stress and tension, and increase intimacy. Knowing how to communicate effectively can promote balance in your life and aid in personal growth. Examples of good communication include:
Clarification: Consistently using only one or two to say how you feel is too unclear. If you want or partner to know that you are upset, describe what upset means to you. Use words that your partner will respond to and empathize with. Being upset or feeling bad can mean that you are sad, lonely, hurt, afraid, or irritated. Generalizing your feelings is not productive and doesn’t allow your partner to make changes. It is also important to remember to specify the degree to which you have these feelings. If you say you’re angry, your partner may interpret this as you being extremely angry when in reality you may only be a little irritated.
Confidence: When you tell your partner how you feel, be confident. By expressing your feelings productively and respectfully you minimize your partner’s need to become defensive.
Prevention: There are ways to be honest and express your feelings and ideas without bruising your partner’s self esteem. You should refrain from expressions of disgust, stereotyping, insults, and put-downs. When you are in a healthy relationship your goal should be to boost your partner’s self-esteem, not crush it.
Controlling: The point of having a discussion should be a mutual understanding and being able to come to an agreement or resolution that fulfills everyone’s needs. Focusing on making a case for how wrong your partner is or discounting their feelings may help you win the existing argument, but it is your relationship that will lose in the end.