“Intimacy is based on shared vulnerability…Nothing deepens intimacy like the experiences we share when feel flayed, with our skins off, scared and vulnerable, and our partner is there with us, willing to share in the scary stuff.” ~Dossie Easton & Catherine Liszt
Ever had that dream where you leave the house naked? That’s the dream we all dread. It’s not feasible that you would wake up in the morning and simply forget to put clothes on–but the dream still terrifies most people.Advertising
The same can be said for those who struggle with making and maintaining intimate connections. Does the thought of allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable and letting someone see your bare naked soul terrify you? Do you find yourself going from one relationship to another, but you can never seem to find true love? If this is you, you may have intimacy issues.
Many people struggle with developing an intimate relationship with others for a variety of reasons such as:Advertising
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being hurt
- Fear of exploitation
- Past experiences
- Inability to trust
- Traumatic childhood experiences
These are all legitimate intimacy blockers and valid fears. When we lower our guard and allow people to get close, there are consequences–good and bad.
True Intimacy Keeps People Bonded
Intimacy is a close personal connection between two people that is developed over time. Typically, we learn how to develop intimate relationships as children through our interactions with out parents and close family members. As we grow older, opportunities arise to develop other intimate relationships outside of the home. We learn to establish commitment and trust, and build connections through work, play, sex, and shared experiences. The journey towards creating intimate relationships is therefore potentially never ending and everyone’s experience in learning to be intimate is different.Advertising
The one constant and fundamental truth concerning intimacy is we all have a deep, innate need to have intimate relationships in our lives. Psychologist understand and have proven that relationships matter to our sense of well-being. Throughout life, we need relationships to help us feel connected, boost our feelings of self-worth, and sustain our moods.
The Truth about Letting your Guard Down
When determining how to lower your guard and trust people, there are a few things you must consider, understand and accept.The first of which is that intimacy involves risk. This is just a hard truth about intimate relationships. You could get hurt. But on the other hand you could enter into a relationship and experience love at its deepest level–the kind of love musicians sing about and laureate wax poetically about. You could find yourself in a deep meaningful relationship and experience the euphoria of being totally and completely loved and accepted exactly as you are–flaws and all. Consider the possibility of experiencing true, unbridled, intense and passionate love. As intimacy grows, the intensity of the love and passion grows as well. This happens over time.Advertising
Intimacy Takes Baby Steps
The next fact is that developing an intimate relationship takes time; intimacy is a gradual process. Take baby steps. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT bare your soul and present your heart on a platter on a first date. You are begging for rejection. We all want to be loved and accepted but we must be considerate of the other person. Believe it or not, you are a lot to take in all at once. Throwing all that you are at a stranger or mild acquaintance, all at once isn’t fair to them. Divulge your true self in small doses. Get to know them as you allow them to get to know you. Evaluate their response and then proceed a little further. As you see them begin to open up, you do the same. Mirror their level of intimacy until you are comfortable and it feels safe to share a bit more of yourself.
Mirror Your Expectations
As you begin to gradually open up and connect to the other person, you will have the urge to pull back. During these times it is critical that you remember that you have to give in order to receive. If you want acceptance you have to give it. If you want trust you must first be trustworthy. If you want someone to open up and expose themselves to you, you must do the same. You have to model the behavior you are expecting. Ask questions and genuinely become interested in who your partner (or potential partner) is without judgement. Intimacy occurs when both people share and are transparent and honest with each other. The relationship is not truly intimate if only one person is open.
Learn to Express Yourself
Lastly, understand that as intimacy builds shutting down and refusing to share can quickly kill the intimacy. Learn how to express yourself. Expressing our thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and traumas is difficult. Talking is only one mode of communication. Write out your dreams, journal your feelings and fears and then, let your significant other read it. Illustrate your feelings in a painting or drawing and use that as a catalyst for conversation. Find songs that evoke deep emotion or remind you of an experience you had and allow your special someone to hear it and then explain why it is so meaningful to you. There are so many avenues to generate conversation and get naked emotionally–use whatever vehicle that best suits you. Find a way to be open.
A Wise Word on Intimacy
Intimacy is cleverly described by some in the faith community as “In-to-me-see.” When you refuse to allow yourself to be truly seen, you are preventing yourself the emotional sustenance you need to be your best and most complete self. Intimacy is risky but the love and connection that results is definitely worth the risk.
Last Updated on May 21, 2019
How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship
For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.
If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:
You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.
You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.
In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.
You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.
People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.
You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.
You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.
The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.
You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.
Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.
If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.
Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:
- Understand your own communication style
- Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
- Communicate with precision and care
- Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger
1. Understand Your Communication Style
To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.
In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.
Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.
2. Learn Others Communication Styles
Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.
If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:
“How do you prefer to receive information?”
This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.
To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.
3. Exercise Precision and Care
A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.
On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.
Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.
I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.
I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.
In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.
The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.
Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.
4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger
Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.
In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,
“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”
Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.
Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.
It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.
It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.
It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.
Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.
Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.
The Bottom Line
When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.
I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.
More Articles About Effective Communication
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
- 13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships
- How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com
|||^||Entrepreneur: 14 Proven Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills|