Counseling Advice: Healthy Communication & Relationships

Communication is one of the most important aspects to all relationships. Whether it is between couples, friends, family members, co workers, or customers, the way we communicate with one another is essential to how we get our individual needs met. Communication is the foundation of all healthy relationships. There are several different types and styles of communication. There are both positive and negative ways to communicate. Sometimes I feel like a broken record because I must say this statement in almost every session, “ its not what you say, it’s how you say it”. Negative communication leads to arguments, resentment, anger, frustration, divorce, loss of family relationships, loss of friendships, and loss of happiness with oneself by not being able to get ones own needs met.

Too often, people don’t communicate their feelings or their needs in healthy ways and are left feeling upset. Here are just a few examples of some negative communication patterns that I often see in relationships. I have conveniently named them as “explosive communicator”, “blaming communicator”, and “silent communicator”. The “explosive communicator” is when people let their feelings and emotions build up inside until they explode. When this happens people usually yell, curse, and say horrible things to one another because they have been letting these feelings and emotions build up inside of them for an extended period of time. These situations are destructive and very hurtful, not only to the targeted individual but to the overall relationship. The “blaming communicator” is someone who communicates by blaming others. Instead of owning how they feel, they blame others for the way they feel. There isn’t any positive communication that can take place when people blame one another. Blaming causes people to get defensive, angry, and feel attacked. The “silent communicator” is someone who never communicates how they feel and bottles their feelings. This causes individuals to feel resentful and unhappy in their relationship because their needs are never being met. It is almost impossible to get our needs met when we don’t communicate about what we need and how we are feeling. Nobody is a mind reader. If we don’t tell one another what we need and how we are feeling, how are we supposed to get our individual needs met?

Healthy communication is not easy for any of us and is something that takes self-awareness, effort, patience, and consistency. No one is perfect at healthy communication all of the time. Individually we have to consciously make a commitment to practice HOW we say things. Here are a few examples and tips about healthy communication that I use in my life and that I encourage my client’s to utilize in their relationships.

Healthy Communication Tips:

  1. Don’t interrupt others. Let people finish their statements and explain their feelings before stating yours.
  2. Don’t yell, scream, or name call. Use a calm or neutral tone of voice and refrain from putting others down.
  3. Don’t mind read or assume you know what others think. Listen carefully and ask questions to clarify what you think you are hearing.
  4. Don’t give off negative body language, roll your eyes, look around the room, or focus on other things. Actively listen with eye contact and acknowledge the person who is speaking.
  5. Don’t blame others (You did____). Use “ I “ statements to express your feelings.

I believe that communication is the foundation of all healthy relationships. With healthy communication, individuals can work through almost anything. Words can be used to bring people together and create ultimate happiness, however words can also be harmful, destructive, and tear people apart. It is essential that we look at how we talk to one another in order to create the healthy relationships that we desire.

Amy McNamara, LMFT

Amy McNamara is a licensed marriage family therapist living and working in southern California and has been practicing therapy for 5 years. Amy has a private practice in Redondo Beach, California and also works part time for a government funded mental health agency. She's a relationship expert and has extensive experience working with children and teens with a wide variety of mental health disorders. Amy's a graduate of Humboldt State University and received her Master's Degree in counseling at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. For more information about her practice, please visit her online.
Amy McNamara, LMFT

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