The way we communicate almost always has to do with how we were raised and what was modeled to us. A lot of people go through life thinking that the way they communicate and express their feelings is healthy until someone notices or tells them otherwise. Sometimes coworkers may bring up some concerns with the way you are handling things. Or your partner keeps asking you why you are so angry all the time. We are sometimes forced to reflect on how we are coming across to others and whether we are showing them our true self and our true feelings.
The first step in trying to improve your communication is recognizing the unhealthy patterns. These patterns can present in many different ways. For example, you could be feeling angry and frustrated all the time and thinking that no one understands you. You could be feeling overwhelmed with feelings of guilt because you don’t want to offend or hurt anyone. You could also feel overwhelming stress and anxiety trying to constantly please others. Once you have been able to recognize that something just isn’t right, it’s time to learn a new reality. Learning how to communicate in a healthy way is not a negative thing – we all have to constantly educate ourselves to keep up with the world. This is just another thing that we may not have been taught well, so it presents an opportunity for growth.
So how do we reach the goal of learning how to communicate more effectively? We focus inwards and determine how we feel. Before telling someone else what you feel, it is important to know for yourself. When you feel something intense, recognize what that feeling is. Is it anger, guilt, sadness, excitement, rejection? I know it can be difficult to start this process especially for those of you who have not been used to identifying or sharing feelings at all. Or those of you who have been raised to not show emotion.
After you have mastered the skill of understanding your feelings, share them with others. This can be especially important in intimate relationships. Sharing feelings with a partner can spark a connection. Start sentences with ‘I Feel’ and let the other person know that you are not wanting to attack them but just share how you are feeling. This assertive style of communication allows you to stand up for yourself without putting someone else down and allows you to say no and set boundaries in a healthy way.
The process of moving towards assertive and healthy communication can be scary especially because it may be the complete opposite of what you have been doing for most of your life. However, the change has the ability to help you and your relationships thrive in a way you never thought possible.
Aziza Giga-Hirji MSW, RSW specializes in the areas of stress management and communication, as well as many others. For more information on Aziza, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.