What’s the best way to get your needs met? Communicating them clearly and effectively. Hands down, the most life and relationship-altering skillset is knowing how to communicate in a way that is productive, kind, honest, and respectful.
This is Part 2 of my series on healthy communication skills. Last week, I shared my best strategies to resolve conflict so if you need to catch up on Part 1, you can do that right here.
In this episode, I’m moving into more specific problem-solving and communication techniques so you can learn how to advocate for your needs in a clear, healthy way and open up an ongoing dialogue that feels expansive inside your relationships.
Prefer just audio? Listen to the episode here.
Before we dive in, I want to make a point about one of the major roadblocks to effective communication: defensiveness. Let’s just get this out of the way:
Defensiveness = Death to Effective Communication
If that made you cringe a little, don’t worry. I’ve been working on mastering my impulse to be defensive for years in pursuit of better communication, deeper intimacy, and real connection. It’s important to know that mastery doesn’t mean you won’t feel like you want or need to defend yourself. I still feel that way at times.
Getting a healthy handle on your defensiveness means you have the skills and the internal space to take a breath and choose to be kind and loving and interested in being right.
You don’t need to list all the reasons why you did what you did. You don’t need to “win” by overly explaining why you feel the way you feel. The goal of healthy communication is understanding and connection, but as soon as defensiveness enters the ring, it sets up a dynamic of you versus me. Egos and fears get kicked up and square off. Instead of the collaborative dialogue, we might have hoped for, we can find ourselves in a gridlock of conflict.
According to Marshall Rosenberg, PhD., the founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), there’s a reason for that. He “believes that most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand, and diagnose — to think and communicate in terms of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with people. That we express our feelings in terms of what another person has ‘done to us.’”¹
Sound familiar? Once there’s defensiveness on either side and we start trying to be “right” instead of trying to listen, it can be a slippery slope into blame, humiliation, and guilt. We don’t want to use shaming or coercion or threats…and we don’t want the other person to use that on us either.
So how can we choose differently?
We get conscious and present. We make space to attune ourselves to our needs and feelings states and to the needs and feeling states of the other person. We choose to shift our goal from “winning” to understanding and being understood.
Dr. Rosenberg devised a simple method for clear and empathic communication that has been used in large scale global conflict resolutions and is just as effective in homes, families, and workplaces.
Inside this week’s downloadable guide, I’m sharing his step-by-step method on how to engage in meaningful, constructive dialogue that is attuned to your needs and the needs of others. I’m also giving you the framework and language for making simple requests and expressing your feelings in a way that isn’t provocative or defensive, so you can be understood and you can understand the people in your life.
While it takes practice to re-train your brain and resist the impulse to go in with guns blazing, the rewards are worth it. When you can connect with others in a real, heartfelt way it inspires empathy and compassion…and that’s the secret sauce that gets everyone motivated to work together towards a resolution.
The first step is to begin to observe yourself without judgment before you attempt to have the conversation. For communication to be effective, and to move away from reactivity and into connectivity, this is the pre-work. Before you can communicate what you need, step back, and internally examine how you feel and why you feel that way. Was there a moment when a line was crossed? Was a need unmet? Was a boundary violated?
Stepping into this role of observer requires you to turn inward first. One of the most profound shifts in my life was when I started incorporating daily meditation and mindfulness practices because it expanded my response time even in heated moments. That extra space to take a breath and tune into myself continually helps me make different choices that result in better outcomes.
So why should you care about this? Because creating the space and time to understand and take responsibility for how you feel IS how you get what you want in life! Only then can you effectively communicate your needs, preferences, and desires. And don’t worry. I know that sometimes speaking up can feel daunting or you might not have the words to say it the “right” way. Inside your guide, I’ve included strategies and language to get you started, so be sure to grab that right here.
Healthy, honest communication is the way we make ourselves known to the people around us. How can anyone deeply love you if they don’t accurately, succinctly, and deeply know you?
I hope this added some value to your life and that the communication framework and strategies I’m sharing in the guide make it easier for you to be fully self-expressed because you deserve to be seen, known, and heard. My intention is to empower you to live your best, most joyful, most authentic life, and effective communication and problem solving is such a big piece of that!
So if you liked this episode of The Terri Cole Show, please share it with the people in your world. That is, to me, the biggest compliment. The more people whose consciousness we raise together, the better off the world is going to be.
Please keep your comments and questions coming! As you know, you are IT for me, and all I want is to keep creating content that will lessen your suffering and elevate your joy so drop me a comment below and let me know what you need help with right now.
I hope you have an amazing week trying out your new scripts and as always, take care of you.
¹Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD