From a counseling perspective, when I study communication between politicians, businesses, and portrayals in the media, I often shake my head. It’s pretty bleak. Some of the very same dysfunctional communication that happens in unhappy and unsuccessful relationships is often present in these environments- and shown as an example.
Effective communication, like most anything else of value, takes work and practice. Unfortunately, a lot of models of communication from environments like those listed above are about winning and being “one-up” from another person. You will never get very close to another if this is your stance. True intimacy is knowing someone and being known by them- not putting another down, trying to win, or being “right.”
When I was a counseling intern, I was struck by a question my supervisor posed to a client in group therapy: “Do you want to win the argument or keep your spouse?” Good question. What are our priorities? It’s a good idea to look at them. Because whatever you ultimately are seeking will come through in your communication patterns. Do you truly seek to understand, to know, and to connect? Or are you trying to win, to defeat, and to be the big-shot?
Here’s a few helpful pointers on assertive and kind communication:
-Mutual respect (their thoughts/feelings matter, and so do yours)
-Reflect (share) what you think you heard
-Strive to understand what the other REALLY means
-Ask lots of questions
-Be concise, if possible
-Say no when it’s called for
-If reasonable, thank the person for sharing
-Let another person know they are important
-To love and care for another requires that you set healthy boundaries
-Ask the other person how you can approach something
-Use “I” statements (saying “you,” especially in conflict, often comes across as blaming)
-Remember you are human– be patient with others as they are, too