Communication is absolutely vital for every relationship, whether it’s with a spouse, a child, a parent, or a dear friend. In our harried, hectic daily lives, we can often forget just how important simple acts are for maintaining a strong, healthy connection, but by devoting some time to re-establishing those connective threads with those we love, we can keep our bonds strong.
1. Listen, don’t just wait to speak.
One of the main problems that people have when communicating with others is that they don’t actually take the time to listen. Sure, they hear the general gist of what the other person is saying, but they’re mostly just biding time until they can toss their two cents into the mix.
Draw your attention out of your own cranium, and really listen to what’s being said to you. Once the other person has finished speaking (and don’t even think about interrupting them or finishing their sentences), take a moment to mull over what they’d said before responding: you’ll be able to process everything in depth, and give them a reply that’s sincere.
2. Be honest.
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll mention it again: the worst truth is better than the best lie. True friends are those who will tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it (albeit gently and tactfully), and couples who are honest with one another can weather life’s storms as a team, rather than staying silent about issues until they overflow and damage things beyond repair. If you’re gentle and honest with those you love, you can work through any trial together, with love and compassion.
Written words are powerful for more than one reason: the recipient can read your note/letter/card over and over again so the words can be learned by heart, and they can also recognize the fact that you took the time to write something to them by hand. Emails are all well and good for a moment’s communication, but when you write someone a letter, even if it’s just a couple of sentences in a store-bought card, you let them know just how important they are to you.
4. Go outside.
Make plans to take an outing together, where you’ll be free from distractions like TV, internet access, etc. Consider turning your phones off while you’re out there so you can really immerse yourselves in nature, and enjoy beautiful things together. Having a picnic in a park, exploring your local waterfront, or hiking nature trails in the forest gives you a perfect opportunity to pay attention to one another while experiencing all the rejuvenation the natural world has to offer. Being outside can lift everyone’s spirits, and an environment that’s fresh and alive is a perfect place to talk about new ideas, projects, or even life changes you’ve had in mind.
5. Make a physical connection.
Did you know that babies who don’t get enough physical contact often fail to thrive, and can even die from lack of touch? The need for physical contact is so ingrained in humans that we actually fail to thrive without it. When you spend time with those you love, be sure to make some kind of contact from time to time to reinforce your connection with them. Holding hands, hugging, or even just sitting side by side with shoulders/legs touching is enough to provide reassurance and comfort.
6. Let them know how you feel.
How many times have we heard about people who have lost a loved one and then lamented that they never told them how they really felt? Too often, that’s for sure. If you value someone’s creativity, if you appreciate how they take care of you, if you enjoy their company, or any other wonderful aspect about them, let them know. Not only will you brighten their day, but they’ll realize their worth to you. This is particularly important for kids between the ages of 12 and 18, as their emotions are all over the place and they need reassurance and love, even as they try to push others away.
7. Recognize their “prime time”.
Some people are at their best and most alert first thing in the morning, while others prefer to socialize after dinner. If the one you love is a groggy mess for the first 3 hours after waking, it’s not a good time to talk to them about anything important during that time. Communication will be much smoother when you can approach them during their “prime time”.
8. Take time outs as needed.
If you’re trying to talk to someone about something important, and emotions start to get fired up, it may be best to take a break and then return to the conversation when you’ve both calmed down. When tensions run high, things may be said in anger that can’t be taken back, so it’s best to go for a walk or meditate a bit, and then come back with a better attitude and more perspective on the issue at hand.
9. Make sure that solo time is respected.
Everyone needs “alone” time to recharge and just escape from the world at large, and if that’s intruded upon, it creates frustration and irritation: two ingredients that do not create a healthy environment for communication. Always ask the other person if it’s a good time to talk, if they seem to be engrossed in solo time, and establish that you need to be asked as well. Additionally, if you’ve planned a block of time in which you really just want to be left alone, let others know: they’re not mind readers.
10. Use “I” or “Me” statements when broaching difficult subjects.
If you’re frustrated or upset about a situation or behaviour, try to avoid being accusatory—that will just result in the other person getting defensive and bristly. Instead of beginning a sentence with “You really upset me when…”, start with “I felt really upset when…”, as that puts the focus on you and allows them to contemplate the actions that caused your reaction, rather than feeling as though they’re being attacked.
Don’t hesitate to let the other person know if you ever feel uncomfortable or awkward broaching a topic as well: acknowledging that you feel weird about it can diffuse a lot of tension, and actually make them more receptive to discussing it, which ends up being better for everyone in the long run.