Communication & Relationships
Our relationships with others are an incredibly important part of life and connection to others serves an important role in our own wellbeing.
Healthy relationships are built on a foundation of meaningful communication, trust, and respect.
No matter if people are in long-term romantic relationships, siblings, or business partners, the relationships between them are defined by predictable patterns of communication or interaction. These relationships are ruled by boundaries and expectations and often the quality of the relationship is dependent on how well these ideas are communicated with one another.
Communication patterns can be positive or negative, strengthening the relationship bond or severing it. Four of the most destructive elements in a relationship include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and “shutting down”. Over time, these lead to the buildup of frustration and resentment, leading to a deterioration in the relationship.
Many people are unaware of how they communicate in relationships, and how they come across to others. Taking the time to learn to clearly communicate your thoughts and ideas can not only profoundly impact your personal relationships, but can help you take positive steps in other areas as well. By seeking professional input you can learn more about your own unhelpful habits and how to change them.
Common Communication Mistakes
When talking to other people, especially those closest to us, we may inadvertently say or do something that hurts the relationship.
Below are common examples of mistakes in communication.
When you notice a person has strong feelings regarding a situation and you ignore, minimize, or judge those feelings, you are invalidating their experience. Others left feeling this way are more likely to “shut down” rather than experience another painful rejection, thus creating a barrier in the relationship.
Characterizing your partner’s behavior with universal statements is also a relationship faux pas. These messages are often problematic because they label a single event as part of the person’s personality. For instance, if your partner leaves food out of the fridge, telling them they “always” do it suddenly becomes a judgement of their character, and it’s hard not to take it personally.
Using the word “you” in communication is a tell-tale sign that you are focused on the other person. This tactic often leads to blaming and criticism on your end, and defensiveness and disagreement from them. When we speak, we often want to start with “I” rather than “you” in order to make it clear that we are speaking from our own personal experience.
When an issue arises, an unhelpful way to go about it is to criticize the person and not the issue at hand. It’s easy to get personal and call each other names, but the best thing to remember is that the issue and the person are two separate entities. Be soft on the person but tough on the issue and clear about your expectations moving forward.
Communication & Sleep
A study conducted to measure sleep deprivation and its effects on communication during individual and collaborative tasks shows that although a good night’s sleep doesn’t necessarily affect surface-level communication, it can affect more deeper forms of communication.
In relationships, this means you’ll still be talking but perhaps not reaching the same levels of intimacy as you could if you were both getting good quality sleep. Make sure you get enough good sleep every night so you can bring your best to each of your relationships, whether personal or professional.
3 Tips for Increasing Meaningful Communication
Below are a few tips on how to foment meaningful communication in your relationships, both at work and at home.
Listen With Intention
Part of communicating is listening and understanding. In order to communicate better, listening will help you show the other person they are being heard. In our hyper-connected world, in order to show that we are actively listening we need to cut out all the distractions: take out your headphones, turn your phone face-down, shut your laptop. Acknowledge that what they said matters: nod your head, tell them you understand, or even repeat back to them what you heard to make sure you’re on the same page.
Studies show we feel closer to others when we can talk about experiences we have in common. These experiences don’t have to be mind-blowing—a simple trip to the grocery store can become a shared moment. Instead of going alone, invite your partner, and the more moments you spend together, no matter how banal they seem, the more fodder you’ll add to your communication bank.
And remember, communication isn’t always verbal. Holding hands can be a wonderful way to tell someone you love them.
Ask & Tell
Ask questions and talk about yourself, continue getting to know each other's internal worlds. When you stay curious, you are letting the other person know you’re interested in their perspective and their worldview. When you talk about yourself, so long as you don’t speak ad nauseam, you’ll make it easier for the other person to know you a little better and develop trust that comes with sharing pieces of your life. Often, we’re most attracted to our partner when we see them in their element —find ways to explore this together.