Beyond Valentine’s Day: Healthy Communication
Healthy communication is one way you can show loved ones, like your significant other, that you respect and value them on a daily basis.
According to the National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families, healthy communication builds trust and friendship within your relationship. Healthy and effective communication also helps set realistic expectations. Unrealistic, unexpressed, and unfulfilled expectations are often the greatest source of unhappiness in a relationship.
So what makes communication healthy?
Dr. Victor Harris, UF Family and Youth Development Specialist, and Dr. Charlotte Olsen, Kansas State University Family Systems Specialist, have a few tips for healthy communication.
- Be clear, concise, and straight forward. If others can’t depend on you to tell them the truth, it damages trust in the relationship. If you think you will have trouble talking about a difficult topic with your partner, consider trying to write it down first to help figure out the best way to say things.
- Just the right amount of information. Think about the age and emotional state of the person you’re sharing with and share what they can process without being overwhelmed.
- Timing is everything. Be sensitive about when or when not to have certain conversations. If someone is sad, angry, tired, or stressed, that might not be the best time to talk about a sensitive subject. Set a time and place to discuss and opt for a “soft start,” using “I” rather than “You” messages that suggest blame.
- Listen silently. Listen silently without interrupting, but show through eye contact, head nodding, and facial expressions that you are listening. Allow the other person to finish what he or she is saying without jumping in — or jumping to a conclusion.
- Listen to find common ground. Try to look for points of agreement, rather than disagreement.
- Focus on positive interaction. It typically takes five positives to overcome one negative.
- Listen reflectively. Try paraphrasing what you have heard. This not only lets your partner know you’re listening, but it can help clarify misunderstandings. Consider your response before speaking, rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
- Be aware of non-verbals. Non-verbals can carry more weight than words. Looking away when a spouse or partner is talking to you or walking out of a room in the middle of a conversation are examples.
- Be willing to compromise. If personal spending from a joint account is becoming an issue, develop a budget in which each spouse or partner has a personal allowance that is his or her money to save or spend as he or she wishes.
- Be respectful — and appreciative. If both parties are tired, say “thank you” to the one who volunteers to go to the grocery store, fix a meal, or make life easier to ease the stress.
- Make “No Needling” the rule — not doing anything intentionally to irritate the other person. Be aware that sarcasm and putdowns can erode a relationship. Humor can break the ice, but it’s best to make fun of yourself, rather than another.
- Be spontaneous, particularly in making everyday opportunities enjoyable — and fun.
For more information on healthy relationships whether you’re dating, married, engaged, or even divorced, check out http://smartcouples.ifas.ufl.edu/.