Healthy Communication

Good communicators pay attention to the tone of the words and the nonverbal cues of the speaker. Sometimes, these things undermine the actual meaning of the words themselves.

For instance, someone might be telling you that he or she is not upset, but the tone or the body language might tell you otherwise.

You may not be conscious of the kind of body language signals you send out, yet unconsciously you are able to interpret the body language of others. You rely on your ‘gut’ intuitive feelings for this process of interpreting. All movements–in your face, with your head, your legs, your hands–combine to make body language.

If somebody stands too close to you, invading your personal space, it can give you an uneasy feeling. You feel inclined to take a step backward to establish the original personal space with which you are comfortable again. In general, people need a certain amount of personal space to feel optimally o.k.  Stand too close and you’ll be marked as “Pushy” or “In your face”. Stand or sit too far away and you’ll be “Keeping your distance” or “Stand offish”. Neither is good.

If you move closer to someone and they back away, you’re probably just a tiny bit too much in their personal space, their comfort zone. When they step away, their body language is saying, “You’ve overstepped the mark” and should pull back a littfle.

Be mindful of what you are saying with your tone, posture, hand gestures, head positioning, eye contact, breathing, facial expressions and movements. Nodding, smiling, laughing, frowning and verbalizing (for example, “I see” or “mm-hmm”) show the speaker that you’re tuned in to their words.

When the speaker has finished speaking, rephrase key points of what they said. For example, “Help me understand. You are saying is…” and then mention an important point in your own words. The purpose of paraphrasing is not simply to parrot back what your partner has said, but to create communication and dialogue. It also improves remembering!

It also helps to reflect on your motivations, by asking yourself “What am I trying to achieve?” Is the conversation about “winning” an argument or is it about discovering greater understanding? If one person wants to hurt, prove something, judge, seek revenge or make him/herself look good, that’s not communication, it’s grandstanding.

Healthy communication does not have to end in agreement. One of the benefits of regular conversation is the discovery that it’s okay, and even stimulating, to disagree. When you have opinions and boundaries, healthy opposition is entirely appropriate and better for the relationship than rote agreement with everything the other person says. But open-mindedness is essential. You must be willing to listen – and hear – opposing views.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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