Maintaining healthy relationships is essential for your overall wellness. We need human interaction to keep ourselves happy, stimulated, and our stress levels low. However, healthy relationships take work. One of the most important parts of keeping your relationships healthy is communication. In order to keep your connections with others stable and positive, it’s paramount to ensure that you’re making equal time to have your feelings heard and to listen to the feelings of others.
As author Elizabeth Bourgeret says, “Communication is the lifeline of any relationship.” And it’s true! Good communication is key for keeping up relationships of all kinds: romantic partnerships, friendships, family relationships, and work relationships all require healthy communication to keep them afloat.
You may be wondering how you can better your communication skills with those you interact with, or perhaps you’ve been struggling with a certain connection that you have, and are looking for a way to solve it. With a few simple tips and some expert guidance, you’ll be well prepared to communicate effectively and keep your relationships healthy.
Here are some of the top communication tips to keep the conversation flowing and the positivity growing in all your relationships.
1. Take Time to Process Your Feelings
When you’re struggling to communicate with someone, it’s likely that you may have some feelings of anger, resentment, or fear built up. According to Susan Shaffer, President of Pneuma Nitric Oxide, “It’s important to take the time to sit with your emotions before attempting to communicate them. When you’ve got a lot of strong feelings swirling around, it can be hard to get across the exact point you’re trying to make, and you may end up saying something that you ultimately regret. To avoid this, consider what you want to say before you have a conversation with the person you want to talk to. That way, you can easily articulate your feelings, and have a more productive flow of communication.”
In addition to processing your emotions, it can be helpful to take the time to write down or make a mental list of personal goals that you hope to achieve during your conversation, especially if you’re headed into a more difficult talk.
By taking the time to sit with your feelings and process the reasons why you’re feeling them, you can avoid communicating in a way that’s hasty or overly emotional. On top of this, it encourages you to express how you feel in your relationships. Whether a situation is positive or negative, it’s important that you let those you interact with know how they make you feel by using your words.
2. Stay Away from Passive Aggressive Statements
“Sometimes when we get frustrated with the way someone has acted, we don’t act out of anger, but instead respond with passive aggressive statements,” says Raina Kumra, Founder and CEO of Spicewell. “Instead of actually expressing how we feel, passive-aggressive statements serve to press our emotions down, which can lead to conflict in the future. Even if the idea of conflict is scary, it’s important to communicate how you feel, rather than brushing things off with a passive-aggressive remark.”
Instead of using passive-aggressive statements like “Fine,” or “Whatever,” when communicating with others, take stock of your feelings and express them. While it can feel better to avoid potential arguments in the moment, relying on passive-aggressive statements to get through a conversation can lead to far more conflict in your relationships in the long run.
3. Use “I” Statements
While it’s important to express your feelings when communicating with others, you’ve got to realize that they’re not universal. “While you might feel one way about something, the person you’re in a relationship with might feel entirely differently,” says Colette Shelton, Founder of Chirpyest. “In order to ensure healthy communication in your relationships, it’s a good idea to express yourself with ‘I’ statements. By saying ‘I feel this,’ or ‘I’d prefer X,Y, and Z,’ you’re able to showcase your perspective, while still leaving room for your partner to express their own viewpoint.”
4. Be Aware of Your Expectations
Just as using “I” statements allows room for your partner’s feelings to be heard in a conversation, it’s also important to be aware of your expectations when communicating with others. “It’s a bad idea to go into a conversation sure that you’re right and that the person you’re communicating with will agree with you,” says Vimla Black Gupta, CEO of Ourself. “Just as you have a right to communicate your feelings and opinions, so does the other person in the relationship. Be open to hearing their side of things, and finding a middle ground you can both agree on to resolve the situation if need be.”
5. Actively Listen
One of the most important parts of communicating is listening. “A conversation is a two-way street, and it’s essential to pay attention to both sides,” says Christy Pyrz, Chief Marketing Officer of Paradigm Peptides. “When communicating with others, be sure that you’re actively listening to what the other person is telling you. That means engaging with what they say, asking for clarity when you need it, being understanding of their emotions, and reflecting on their words. When we don’t actively listen, we risk misunderstanding what our partner has said, which can cause potential conflict in the future.”
6. Establish Boundaries
Establishing boundaries in communication is extremely important in maintaining healthy relationships. “For instance, if you’re in a relationship with someone, whether it be a family member, a boss, a romantic partner, or a friend, who is trying to communicate with you constantly, you’re going to eventually feel burnt out,” says Drake Ballew, CEO of Practice Health. “This may lead to a breakdown in communication, or resentment from the other person. In order to avoid this, it’s important to establish boundaries in communication early on. Set times that you’re available to talk and stick to them. It will be better for your relationships in the long run, and for your own peace of mind.”
7. Make Sure You’re Making Time for Self Care
In order to ensure you’re able to communicate effectively and maintain healthy relationships, you’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well. “When we’re stressed or tired, we’re not going to communicate as well as when we feel well-rested and fulfilled,” says Scott Annan, CEO of Mycube Safe. “If you notice that you’ve been feeling overwhelmed when trying to communicate with others, take the time to relax and realign yourself. Meditate, sleep, take part in a hobby you enjoy; do whatever makes you feel best. When you’re in a stable mood, you’re better equipped to speak and listen to the people who you hold dear.”
8. Set Aside Time for Important Conversations
It’s best to carve out a specific time when you need to have an important conversation. “Having proper time to converse is a big part of maintaining successful communication in your relationships, ” says Mark Sider, CEO and Co-Founder of Greater Than. “By setting aside time for important conversations, you’re ensuring that both you and your partner will be able to express your feelings. Location is also key. Choose a setting where you both can feel at ease while you talk. Important conversations don’t need to be scary, they just require a bit of planning.”
9. Make Sure Your Words Make Your Actions
One of the most important parts of maintaining healthy communication in your relationships that doesn’t involve talking is making sure that your words match your actions. “If you tell your partner that you’re going to change a behavior and do something differently, you have to take actionable steps to follow through on those words, ” says Michael Bell, CEO of Manukora. “Matching your actions to your words helps to build trust in a relationship. The more you act in the way that you say you will, the more your partner will feel comfortable with you.”
10. Be Yourself
While it might seem obvious, being yourself is a huge part of communicating honestly in your relationships. “It can be easy to say or agree to something in conversation just for the sake of avoiding conflict,” says Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce at Sunshine 79. “While it might avoid an issue at the time at hand, by not expressing how you truly feel, you’re not really being yourself in your relationship.”
It’s no fun to pretend to be someone that you’re not. Don’t be afraid to be the real you: communicate your likes and dislikes to your partner. By leading honestly, you’re also encouraging them to be their most honest self with you.
Maintaining healthy relationships starts with good communication. As psychologist Rollo May once said, “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” By communicating with others, we’re able to build stronger relationships with others based on trust and understanding. It’s important to go into conversations with your relationship partners with your emotions well-processed, reasonable expectations, and ready to listen. It’s also key to be conscious of your own well-being: when you’re not feeling well, you won’t communicate well either. Moreover, it’s key to be yourself when entering any conversation: by being your most authentic self when communicating, you encourage others to do the same. Follow the communication tips above and you’re sure to build long-lasting, healthy relationships for years to come.