Good communication is vital in all of our relationships. Jeremy Holmes in his book The Search for the Secure Base says ‘Our physical and psychological security depends utterly on our connections with other people. (Holmes, 2010, p.1) Without good communication skills we cannot have good relationships. Sometimes we are unaware of our relational style or we may think that other people are at fault when things break down. If we want people to listen to us we need to be aware of how things are from their perspective, to be genuinely interested in what they are saying, to give them our full attention. Communication is more than our words, though these are extremely important – we also communicate non verbally – this is our body language.
Do you find that you let other people know that you are not happy by withdrawing from them? Do you bottle things up and find that you have a tight knot of stress and anxiety in the pit of your stomach or a tension headache? Is there a frozen silence and tension in the atmosphere? Or do you find that you shout and get angry very quickly. Could it be that you are not actually angry with the person you are shouting at but have stress and anxiety from somewhere else that has bubbled up. Maybe this is from difficulties in your childhood or perhaps something more recent. Sometimes I say to my clients – think of yourself as a pot – what is it in your pot that may be fuelling your distress and struggle to work out whether you want to be close to people or would rather withdraw.
Everyone has their limits and if we don’t process our thoughts and feelings as we go along and become more self-aware we may find that our pot is full to overflowing and that we are angry, resentful, stressed, anxious, depressed and feeling stuck and disempowered.
On the other hand if we are respectful in our communications with other people we may find that things don’t build up and that misunderstandings can be resolved quickly. No-one is going to listen to us if we don’t listen to them. It is so it is important that we take responsibility for the way that we are expressing ourselves with other people. We have a choice about how we will respond to others. It can be helpful to reflect back what we think we have heard as this improves communication.
I heard someone say once ‘you are never not communicating.’ Some questions may help us begin to reflect:
- What is it that we intend to communicate?
- What are we actually communicating?
- What is the impact of our communication style on ourselves?
- What is the impact of our communication style on other people?
- What are our relationships like?
- When we listen to other people what do we hear?
- In our relationships personally and professionally do we feel peaceful, all churned up or something else?
Healthy relationships include being respectful, empathic and really listening to other people. Even if a person has a different life experience or viewpoint from us it is important to consider how things may be from their perspective. It is difficult to avoid or resolve conflict if these qualities are not well established in a relationship.
If we have low self-esteem and a sense that we are ‘not good enough’ this can have an impact on how we relate to other people.
At the core of counselling is the therapeutic relationship. People have told me that they find being listened to, without judgement, really restorative. It is this which lays the foundation for people to feel safe enough to tell me their story. This is the beginning of communication between us. If you would like to come and talk to me, please do. I trust that I will be able to communicate to you respect, empathy and unconditional positive regard.