The journey of communicating respectfully and honestly, to improve relationships and creating a voice for your feelings has transformed my life, and gone through various phases. Communication encompasses so many levels of our lives, from every day conversations at work, with roommates, to strangers, to people close to us. How to manage hurt feelings, life changes, to work through everyday problems more effectively.
Say what you mean and mean what you say: Passive aggressiveness, hinting, avoiding speaking up, these are all ways of not addressing the problem, and can cause resentment. A habit that I’ve worked hard to break in myself and I’ve noticed many other women, a tendency to sacrifice your self and time for the sake of others. But the only obligation one should have is to themselves. For example, I’ve had people plan things for me that I don’t wish to do. Feeling a sense of guilt that someone was only trying to be considerate, and the least I could do is show up.. right? But that is spending my time just waiting to get something over with, when it is simple to just politely decline, not to make up an excuse, just to say that you cannot go. I love Sara Bareilles’s song Brave: ‘Say what you wanna say..And let the words fall out..Honestly I wanna see you be brave’ It’s as simple as that. Just say it. Your time and happiness is more important, and it’s up to you to prioritize yourself.
People can do things because they don’t know any better, and without drawing your boundaries, people don’t know that they are there. This also means being solid enough in an understanding of your boundaries to hold yourself accountable. If you tell someone that you will not tolerate xyz, it means that you follow through. Communication is not just about words, but to create harmony between your voice, your actions, and your intent.
Communicating respectfully. Simple, yet so powerful and effective. The more hurt and angry you are, is when this is needed the most – or to give yourself space if you need to. When we are hurt, sad, or angry, we can say things and do things we regret. It comes from a place of pain, not of love. No-one reacts positively to negative or hurtful things being said to them. Being respectful doesn’t mean you are giving up your principles, or your viewpoint. You can still say calmly, ‘you hurt me very much, and I am very upset by this, I don’t feel like I can continue the friendship’. The message is the same. Insults take the focus off the original problem, onto the negative or hurtful way you approached it. Communicating respectfully may also mean that you prioritize the relationship over the specific problem. Like agreeing to disagree. If it’s not a hard-line in the sand regarding a moral question, having someone share your viewpoint should not be the desired solution. We often engage in conversation like a debate – needing to convince the other rather than just listening and trying to understand why they think the way they do. Why should a different opinion threaten us so much? I’ve had many angry debates on politics, religion, or whatever. I’ve been able to step back since then and realize that people often have past experiences, emotions, their identity, wrapped up into the subject at hand. I may just like to debate, but making someone feel bad is not a good outcome or what I intended. People are not going to just scrap years of thought processes just because you made a good point. Or vice versa. I’ve been in arguments where I knew I was making a bad point, but when someone makes it humiliating to admit ‘defeat’ then you won’t. Admitting you are wrong can be hard, and if you make it ok for someone to apologize, or to change their opinion, it is far more likely to happen.
Allowing others the space to talk about difficult things: Difficult conversations are.. difficult, and hard. But they need to be had. If someone trusts you enough to talk through something, then you should listen to what they have to say. Fear of hurting the other person is not a good excuse for not being honest, or upfront, and it takes courage to face someone to tell them things you know could hurt them. We need to make it easier for people to have these kinds of conversations, not get defensive, and to not see decisions people make in their life as a value judgement on ourselves.
Holding a shield around your emotions, not articulating your thoughts and needs blocks not only the pain from getting in, but love and understanding as well. It is easy to withhold yourself, it takes energy, effort and strength to feel;to allow yourself to connect with people, establish meaningful relationships, to be vulnerable. Communication can be a conduit through which the deeper self flows.