Communication is key in all relationships. But how come what you say and what the other person hears are not always the same thing? Here’s some powerful advice on how to hear – and to be heard.
Speaking our truth may sound like a simple thing to do. Most of us think that we are pretty truthful and don’t tend to lie, however through a deeper investigation we may find otherwise!
Here are some questions to help determine how truthful we truly are:
- How often do you say, “It’s fine,” when actually it’s 100% not fine with you – then proceeding to silently make the other person or their actions wrong?
- How often do you say yes when you’d really like to say no?
- Do you often just need some help, encouragement, space, loving touch, a salary raise, etc. – but don’t ask for it?
- How often do you feel hurt, angry, or jealous but don’t express it, hiding it from the other person?
- How often do you say or do something so that the other person will respond in a certain way – rather than asking for what you need or want outright?
- Do you give compliments that you don’t really mean, or pretend to agree just to make somebody like you?
- Do you sometimes pretend to listen to somebody while having your mind occupied somewhere outside the conversation?
- Are there people who you sometimes spend time with, who you don’t actually want to spend time with, or even like?
- Do you find yourself pretending or bending the truth in the name of protecting someone else’s feelings?
Owning our own truth
Speaking our truth in a conscious way is always about our truth. It is not about our interpretation of the other person’s reality, their actions, or their feelings.
Speaking our truth is about examining and communicating what has been triggered in us. It could look like telling the other person when we are hurt, angry, or scared. It’s best to avoid saying, “You are doing this or that” as it is easily perceived as an accusation. Even “I feel like you are doing this or that” is really us speaking about how we perceive the other person, rather than actually owning how we feel. A better example would be: “I feel unsupported and taken for granted cleaning the house by myself week after week. I feel hurt and angry that you have not offered to help.” This way we are taking ownership of our emotions and recognising that nobody has the power to make us feel anything.
Many of our daily conflicts are simply due to lack of appropriate communication, and could be easily avoided. Since we shouldn’t expect other people to read our minds, it is important to learn to speak our truth, set boundaries, and express our feelings and reality in a way that is non-threatening and non-blaming. This way, we create more openness, vulnerability, respect, and love between us.
Here are some keys to ensure both sides feel heard and respected:
Simple steps to communicating consciously:
Take responsibility for your own reality – your thoughts, emotions, and experiences without blaming them on anybody or playing the victim. It means remembering that you have a choice. You can react unconsciously, or stay in your power, express yourself clearly, and make your own conscious decisions about yourself and your life. This also means that you are only responsible for your own actions. It is not your responsibility to tell others how they should act or behave. But it is your responsibility to set boundaries that work for you.
Stick to the facts
Stick to the facts about what happened, without adding colouring, interpretation, or exaggeration. “You are always late” probably isn’t a fact. The tendency may also be to add meaning to the other person’s actions, which usually is just our interpretation (or story), rather than a fact.
One important fact is how you are feeling. So it could go something like this: “When you are late and don’t let me know, I feel unimportant, unloved, and angry.”
Set healthy boundaries
Healthy boundary setting goes along with taking responsibility and speaking our truth. It means letting the other person know clearly if something isn’t OK for us. For example: “I’m not OK with vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom by myself every week” or “I am not OK with being spoken to like this / lied to / your brother staying with us for months,” or “It’s not ok for me to work late / change shifts again with short notice”. In our intimate relationships, boundaries can be an on-going negotiation.
The temptation will be to blame or make the other wrong for their actions. When blamed or made wrong, most of us instantly get on the defence. It is very hard to receive a message when it comes in the form of an accusation. However, when we are willing to make ourselves vulnerable and express how we feel, we are much more likely to get a resolution or at least understand each other. This brings us to…
Ask for your needs to be met
This could look as simple as saying, “I really need your help keeping the house tidy. Could you please help by cleaning up after yourself and taking turns cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming?” or “I would really like to leave work at 6pm most evenings to go spend time with my kids.”
So often we don’t ask for what we need because we think the other ‘should know’. Or we make our case even more complicated by giving their actions meanings such as “If they really cared they would / wouldn’t…” We may also tell ourselves that we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – only then we end up hurting our own! This is one form of co-dependency. Our unexpressed feelings are bound to come out in some less direct and constructive way before too long.
It’s important to acknowledge that our needs are very different. We simply can’t expect people to know what ours are, no matter how obvious it may seem to us – unless we express them clearly. Love and support can look very different to different people. Again it is important not to blame or accuse the other, and remember that asking is not the same as demanding. Most of us don’t respond well to demands or being told what to do. They are violations of another person’s boundary. So we can enter a negotiation within the boundaries that we honestly feel OK with.
Communication is always a two-way street. Everyone wants and deserves to be heard. Active listening means not only holding ourselves back from cutting someone off mid-sentence. It means actually listening to what they have to say without presuming we already know what it is. A good practice in active listening is to summarise what they have just said and repeat it back to them. For example: “I am hearing you feel unsupported and taken for granted and need some more help around the house…” This makes the other person feel heard and understood, which is often half way there, even if we are not able to meet their needs. Remember to pay attention to your…
The majority of our communication consists of our body language, tone of voice, gestures, posture, facial expressions, and eye-contact. Even if we are saying the ‘right words’ but not meaning them, the other person will pick up on the lack of sincerity. So stay in the truth!
Sometimes we may think we know what people think or feel without them telling us. However most of the time our ‘mind reading’ is just a reflection of our own unconscious thoughts or fears, not an actual insight into what is going on in their heads or hearts.
Mastering the art of conscious communication gives us much more personal power. That means we will be much less reactive and feel more secure and authentic in all our relationships.
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