Communicating within a close relationship can be difficult. If you’ve ever hesitated to bring up an important issue with one of your loved ones, you know just how hard it can be to speak your truth when you’re afraid that doing so might hurt someone else or may lead to an argument.
It can be tricky to navigate a tough conversation while maintaining your own integrity and feel empathy for the other person. You can easily part ways without feeling like you’ve made much progress on whatever issue you were talking about. And on some occasions, you might simply choose not to bring up a sensitive topic at all, for fear that you’ll offend someone.
But letting things go unsaid isn’t the solution.
So how can you polish your communication skills? First, you’ll need to learn how to effectively initiate respectful conversations. Ellyn Bader, the co-founder and director of The Couples Institute, has developed a simple framework.
The following tips will help you become a great initiator.
Concentrate On a Single Issue
When you’re about to initiate a conversation, make sure that you hone in on one topic. Resist the urge to bring up other problems at the same time. That will only serve to throw everyone off track.
Instead, do your best to stay laser-focused on the issue at hand and make an effort to be clear and specific. Clarity helps both you and the other person ensure that you are on the same page and that neither of you is sending mixed messages.
Be Honest About Your Feelings
It can be tempting to hold back when it comes to expressing your true feelings. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed of what you feel. But if you want your genuine intentions to come through, you need to be willing to take a risk and be vulnerable.
Speak your mind and don’t shy away from opening up about complex emotions, thoughts and desires. Hiding your truth will only hurt you in the long run.
Check in With Yourself
Throughout the conversation, you may need to check in with yourself occasionally. Remember, it’s also your responsibility not to project your own emotions on to the other person. So keep this in mind as you talk.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
When tensions are running high in a conversation, it can be very tempting to play the blame game. Perhaps the other person involved is responsible for hurting you in some capacity. But you must resist the urge to blame, make harsh accusations, or resort to name-calling and insults.
Rather, choose to be kind and charitable instead. It can help to acknowledge the positive aspects of the situation.
Use this conversation as an opportunity for self-discovery. Be open-minded about what realisations might come up.
What have you learned about while opening up to someone else? How have you behaved throughout this conversation? What has this experience taught you about the way that you relate to other people? Observe your own behaviour mindfully to draw conclusions.
Remind Yourself of the Purpose
It can help to remind yourself of why you’re having this conversation in the first place. Sometimes, you may have to return to this as you talk. Don’t lose sight of why you broached the topic in the first place.
Remember, being willing to take a risk in order to express your own truth serves both yourself and others. This practice increases your ability to tolerate the free expression of others and accept their differences and individual truths.
Do you want to improve your communication skills? Are you trying to become a better initiator? If you feel that you need some guidance to sharpen your communication techniques, you may want to seek out a qualified therapist. I invite you to? reach out to me to discuss how I can help you.