I recently watched a presentation by author and psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly about communication. As she spoke, it struck me how rarely I see healthy communication on tv, social media feeds, and elsewhere.
Because we have moved so far from it in the public arena, our kids have fewer opportunities to watch these conversations and learn. I wondered how society could reconnect with civility and healthy dialogue. The most direct place to practice may be in our homes.
What is “healthy communication?”
In simple terms, healthy communication happens when two people or a group have a discussion, and those involved feel heard and respected. The goal is to better understand the other person or resolve a problem, not to win or overpower.
The word “communication” comes from the Latin word “communicare” which means to share. As one person shares, the other stays curious and listens. The speaker uses “I statements” to avoid blame and criticism. The listener may reflect back what they heard to make sure they understood before responding.
Healthy communication is not easy. It takes practice. And we all have good days and bad days. It’s especially important for tough conversations with loved ones. With practice and intention, healthy communication gets easier and eventually becomes a habit.
People will always disagree, but when disagreements end in take-downs and fights, the damage is difficult to undo. A healthy discussion feels different and is more likely to end in resolution, understanding, and even connection.
It is going to take the efforts and intentions of many to turn the ship. But one conversation at a time, I believe it’s possible. And practicing at home sets the stage for the next generation.
Steps to Healthy Communication
- Find a good time and space to talk.
- Agree on communication rules – such as be kind, honest, no namecalling. Stick to only one issue at a time.
- Regulate your emotions – take a break if too angry or upset.
- Use “I Statements” when speaking.
- Practice reflective listening – Listen and reflect back what you hear. Hold your reaction or feelings until that person is done and feels heard.
About Jessica Speer:
Jessica Speer is an author and speaker that focuses on helping kids and families thrive. Her book, BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends), releases July 2021. Visit www.JessicaSpeer.com to learn more, follow her blog, or connect on social media.