Healthy communication is a crucial harm reduction tactic that helps to prevent gender-based violence.
It’s also an important skill to develop for all of your relationships, be they romantic, platonic, familial, or professional.
Any bond between two (or more) people needs a strong and collaborative communication dynamic to flourish and ensure that all involved have the opportunity to be healthy and happy.
You can use the following strategies to guide you and the people in your life as you build up your healthy communication skills.
Remember that conversations are a two-way street. Anyone involved in a conversation should be contributing and have a say in the matter at hand. If someone is not actively engaged and the conversation is becoming one-sided, take some time and space and then come back and talk when everyone is ready.
Use “I” statements. Speak from your own experience and what you are feeling, using statements like “I feel like ______” or “I think that _____” to convey what you’re trying to say. Avoid “you” statements; they can come off as accusatory and will make the other person(s) defensive. “You” statements tend to make conversations stagnate or even escalate into arguments where no one is really listening anymore. “I” statements have the power to move the conversation forward in a positive way.
If you’re not sure what the other person is feeling, ask. This step helps alleviate stress (trying to guess what someone else is thinking is frustrating!) or any presumptions that you might have about the situation while also encouraging honesty.
Tell them what you need. To get support from someone else, you have to state your needs in plain language. Being direct about your needs will minimize the possibility of miscommunication.
Use active listening techniques. Non-verbal communication (nodding, eye contact), open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with a yes or a no), and paraphrasing (repeating a person’s statement back to them) are some key elements of active listening. Read more about active listening in this blog post by a (former) A Place to Talk leader. (APTT is a peer-listening organization for undergraduate students.)
Be open-minded, trusting, and patient. Everyone deserves to be heard, and all healthy relationships are rooted in trust. Lastly, remember that this skill is one that you and your partner(s) are in the process of developing. Give yourself grace, and keep on practicing.