Practicing healthy communication is important for maintaining respect and honesty in your relationships. Healthy communication refers to a mutual exchange of listening and honoring each other's needs- it's a fluid process that requires trust and safety.
Unfortunately, communicating your needs isn't always easy! We often end up hurting the people we love the most (without even necessarily realizing it). Here are some mistakes you should know about.
Expecting People to Read Your Mind
You're upset that your partner didn't unload the dishwasher, even though you naturally tend to do this chore most nights. Or, you're frustrated that your friend hasn't asked about your new job, despite you recently telling them things are going just fine.
If you expect others to read your mind, you should expect to feel disappointed. People may know you very well, but that doesn't mean they can accurately assess your every feeling, desire, or need. Likewise, it isn't fair to "make them guess" what you want in a given situation. Doing so only perpetuates more anxiety for everyone.
Using Blaming Language
You never ask me what I want! You don't care about this family at all. You're way too wrapped up in your work. You don't want to hear what I have to say.
Are you ever guilty of talking that way to other people? If so, these harsh accusations can come across as extremely hostile. Other people will likely respond to them defensively, aggressively, or by ignoring you altogether. None of these reactions are particularly optimal.
Instead of blaming others, it's important that you focus on assuming personal accountability over your own feelings. After all, nobody can make you think or feel a certain way. Recognizing that is paramount for understanding how you interact with others.
Speaking to Others Passive-Aggressively
I really don't care what we do either way.
Nothing's wrong. I'm fine.
I would have assumed you knew that.
If you've ever been the recipient of passive aggression, you know how frustrating it feels. On the one hand, you can tell the other person is angry or upset. But, on the other hand, you have to hear them explicitly deny their feelings and tell you their reality is entirely different.
Passive aggression is a manipulative form of projected anger that ultimately makes people doubt their truths. It's especially detrimental in relationships because it causes loved ones to spend excess time trying to figure out what you want in a given moment. As a result, they may start withholding their own needs or tip-toeing around you to avoid conflict.
Omitting Important Details
Healthy communication requires transparency. If you always filter what you say, you risk confusing people or feeling disappointed when they can't support you adequately.
It's helpful to think about why you might be withholding certain information. Are you trying to protect them? Are you concerned about the details reflecting you poorly?
At times, the occasional omission may be appropriate. But if that's your constant pattern, you are guarding yourself against intimacy and vulnerability with others. You may also be reinforcing toxic codependent patterns. As a result, your relationships will likely feel shallow and unfulfilling.
Failing to Optimize Your Setting
Clear communication doesn't just happen on a whim. Think about it. Is it better to speak your mind when you're calm and collected? Or when you're outraged and resentful? Are conversations typically more effective in quiet, private settings or in noisy, busy places where you can barely hear one another?
Don't overlook the benefits of finding the right moment to communicate your needs. Usually, this means:
both people have the opportunity to be fully present (nobody is at work or in the middle of something).
the location is private and comfortable.
both people aren't pressed for time.
neither of you is in an acute crisis or a state of heightened emotion.
Of course, life happens, and you can't optimize every conversation. But try to think about how you can strategize to designate time and attention to genuinely communicate with the people in your life.
Getting Better At Communicating Your Needs to Others
Improving your communication skills takes time, effort, and continuous practice. You need to dedicate yourself to this work. Empathy and pausing go a long way! Try to put yourself in someone else's shoes before expressing your needs. In doing so, you will likely present what you want calmly and effectively.
Certain barriers like trauma, depression, anxiety, or a history of toxic relationships, can make healthy communication particularly difficult. If this is the case for you, seeking professional support can help.
At The Resurface Group, we offer customized support in assisting our clients in improving their self-esteem and making meaningful relationships in their lives. We can help you articulate your needs and ask for the support you deserve! Contact us today to learn more.