Healthy communication is key. How you communicate, and what your communicate, can make or break a relationship – any relationship. So it is imperitive that you understand that healthy communication is SO MUCH MORE than mere words coming out of your mouth!
My face has often been accused of speaking so loud that they can’t hear my words. Admittedly, it has a mind of it’s own and I have to work on domesticating this wild animal. But there is much more than just facial expressions that communicate to others, and sometimes communicate the WRONG MESSAGE!
Are you Passive or Assertive? Aggressive? Passive Aggressive?
A critical factor in creating healthy communication environment is by being assertive. One way to ascertain which category you fall into is to pay attention to how often you use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. An assertive person will express themselves without the eed to accuse or belittle and blame the other. All of the other people will view the other person as an ‘opponent’, and therefore take a more defensive posture in the communication. They will step into the realm of ‘control’ depending on personality type. They will either become agressive, passive agressive, or simply passive. But it is all a form of manipulation and control.
What IS a healthy I statement?
Let’s say your spouse came home late and hadn’t communicated with you about it. You had been trying to get a hold of them but they were not answering their phone or answering text messages. You began to worry, thinking about any number of atrocious scenarios. They suddenly come walking in the door; clueless……
An assertive person would greet them and ask them what happened and where they had been. They wouldn’t be asking in an accusatory manner, at this point an assertive person is gathering all of their information BEFORE making a judgement. Then they would assert their healthy communication, “Honey, I was terribly worried. I need to know when you are going to be running late so that I don’t worry.
An aggressive person would make the other feel interrogated. They may say something like, “Where have you been? Why didn’t you answer my calls or me texts? What were you doing?!”
A passive aggressive person would not greet the other, they might remain quiet and aloof until the other asks what is wrong. This person may answer that question initially with, “Nothing.” and remain passive until the other pulls something out of them. Then they may say, “Why does it even matter? Obvioulsy how I feel is not important to you, otherwise you would have answered your phone and let me know you were going to be late!”
And a passive person will not say anything in order to keep the peace. All the while there is a storm brewing inside of them. The other person may pick up on something, but the masks of a passive person are thick, and their emotions are buried.
Two sides of healthy communication
If Assertiveness is one side of the healthy communication coin, Active Listening is the other side.
This style of listening is an art. It is an amazing tool to not only to make the other person feel heard and understood, but it keeps you present and engaged.
Too often we get caught up in a defensive posture and we are working on the answers in our head, rather than listening to what the other person is trying to communicate. We need to take a step back from our defensiveness and really ‘listen’. Think about that toddler who is trying to communicate their needs, you have to really ‘listen’ and try to make out what they are saying. What do we typically do in that scenario? We ask them what we think we understood. “You want a cookie?” “Are you wanting to watch tv?” “You are hungry?” etc.
Not that we want to treat our spouse like a toddler, but it is the same precept of wanting to understand what they are trying to communicate.
The art of active listening involves staying present in the conversation, remaining attentive without interrupting the other person, and then repeating back to the person what we believe we are hearing. It would sound something like, “So, if I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that you would prefer I shoot you a text to say I am going to be late so that you don’t worry?” Your communication partner would then have the opportunity to affirm your statement, so that no assumptions are being made, or make corrections and further communicate what they are trying to say.
In the heat of the moment IS NOT the time to try and practice this style of commmunication. Begin practicing healthy communication TODAY. be aware of your non-verbal communication, your assertiveness, and your active listening. If you do this regulalry then when one of those tense moments of communication come up you will be better prepared to handle it with care and enjoy a more productive outcome.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and invest in yourself, as well as in your marriage. Please let me know what your thoughts are. What is your biggest challenge in healthy communication with your spouse?