Make Your Relationship Healthy: PART I
By Georgia Smith-Lyle, MA, LPC-S
We all want healthy thriving relationships! We all have a need to be loved, and connected to others. Maintaining healthy relationships doesn’t just happen. It takes your effort, your time, and energy. Most of all, it takes desire. I counsel many couples. The one area I find most couples needing help is effective communication. They’re disconnected for a reason and need help mending their relationship foundation. If your relationship feels disconnected, take a look at your communication with one another. Is it effective? Does it need improvement? Could you be misunderstanding each other? Do you find yourself frustrated when trying to communicate? Are you in fear of bringing up certain subjects? If you answered “yes” to any of these, the following information will hopefully help you to reconnect and begin restoration. A healthy, loving, connected relationship is worth the effort to make it that way and keep it strong.
Oliver Wendell Homes quotes, “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” Ponder and think before you say what you want to convey. Taking time to choose your words is wisdom.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Words spoken are just words unless they can paint the right picture and bring understanding to the listener.
Great communication involves the important skill of “listening.” If you are not being heard or if you do not listen and perceive what the other person is conveying, then partial communication and misunderstanding is likely to occur. One of the most frustrating factors in any relationship is the feeling of “never heard or understood.” Listening takes effort and practice, but it is one of the most wonderful ways to convey to someone “you care,” “you are trying to understand,” and “they are important.”
To Effectively Communicate:
- Make eye contact while listening. Keep your thoughts on what is being said, guarding against thinking about something else, or being too quick to respond. Meaning, instead of thinking about what you are going to say next, listen to what the other person is saying while they are talking.
- Do not interrupt. Let the person finish what they are trying to say.
- Guard against defensiveness, blame, and justification attitudes.
- Remember we are all individuals and have a right to our perspectives. Not everyone is going to believe or think exactly the way we do and we must give others the freedom to think and believe what they want.
- State as clearly as possible the topic or issue you want to convey.
- The person listening should restate what has been said to them, making certain they perceived correctly what was being said. This is where many mis-perceptions take place. Sometimes we do not understand exactly what the person is stating so restating helps clear any mis-perceptions.
- After what you have conveyed has been restated by the person you are communicating with, clarify anything that needs clarification.
- Continue the stating, restating and clarifying until the issue has been fully discussed and you either come to understanding or a solution to a problem.
The Never-Ever Rules:
- Do not talk about important issues or ones where a decision must be made when:
- you are angry
- extremely tired
- when either party is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
The Always Rules:
- Give each other a “time-out” if you see the communication is getting to a heightened emotional level of anger or yelling.
- This “time-out” may be for a few hours or a day or two, but always come back to the issue so that a resolution can be made. Do not avoid and withdraw completely from what obviously needs to be discussed.
Sometimes communication can be very uncomfortable, but it is vital for any and all relationships. We are not mind readers, and expressing ourselves is a gift that only enhances deeper relationships! Always remember, the art of effectively communicating gives you the perfect opportunity to be “the calm” in your partner’s “storm.”
Georgia Smith-Lyle, MA, LPC-S is in private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Texas providing counseling for children, adolescents, adults, marriage and family. She has authored two books and a public speaker. Georgia may be reached at 469-855-0256 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.couselingbygeorgia.com.