Research has consistently shown that healthy relationships are critical for our happiness and lifespans. They help reduce stress, make healthier choices and generally keep our minds and bodies in better shape. Most of us know the value of good relationships, but we often forget the effort needed to build and maintain them. They take time, effort, and sometimes compromise. At the core of it all is open and honest communication.
Open Communication in a healthy relationship
Communication is considered open when you feel safe enough to share your thoughts and feelings, knowing that you will not be judged and will always be heard. We can sometimes take people close to us for granted and assume that we know what they are thinking, or our communication is great just because we love them. However, misunderstandings can happen in any relationship, which can lead to people feeling hurt, upset, or confused.
Here are some tips to help in open communication:
- Be empathetic and try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Listen, and more importantly, make sure that the other person feels that they have been heard. This may mean asking questions to clarify or paraphrasing what you have heard to ensure you have understood the other person.
- Don’t interrupt, let the other person finish what they are saying.
- Set aside a specific time so that there are no interruptions.
- Be ready to share your own thoughts and feelings.
- Do not assume that the other person will know what you are thinking or feeling. Talk about it without being defensive.
- Know that your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language are also informing the other person. So, mean what you say and say what you mean.
- Stay calm even when emotions start getting heightened. Take a break if needed.
- Be fair when there are differences or disagreements. Disagreements do not mean that you do not like each other. Holding a more productive conversation may be better than rushing in to say something. When doing so, use only “I” statements to describe what you feel and what you need to avoid sounding critical.
Trust in a healthy relationship
It takes time to build trust in a relationship and it can sometimes be hard. For some people, their ability to trust is shaped by their past experiences.
Here are some tips to be able to help build trust:
- Be there for your loved ones when they need you.
- Respect boundaries by doing things or speaking in ways that make the other person feel comfortable.
- Talk honestly about your feelings.
- Acknowledge when there is a misunderstanding and work through it. Resolve differences and arguments with respect.
- Lead by example – treat others how you want to be treated.
- Be dependable– this involves completing or following through on your commitments.
- Accept people as they are. Do not try to change them.
Most of us have concerns about fitting in, about what others may think about us, or about being able to get along with others. Building healthy relationships is a journey that involves real people who have both flaws and strengths. They take time and effort. But they can be learned, and we get better with practice. Most importantly though, always stay true to yourself without pretending to be someone you’re not. Remember that no matter where you are on your relationship journey, support is always available either from a friend, or family, or a mentor or support service like OzHelp.