Communication is how we interact - how we share feelings, express our goals, connect with others, and thrive. It’s how we create and maintain meaningful relationships with our family, friends, coworkers, and all the people in our lives. It intertwines into every aspect of our lives, but how does it relate to quality, healthy relationships?
Long Distance Relationships
Take long distance relationships for instance. At the root, these type of relationships are dependent on honest, constant communication.
In any situation where the other person isn’t there physically, whether through text or across Zoom, you have to adjust how you communicate - these adjustments can include having to perhaps more openly express emotions, feelings, and thoughts. It’s never easy carrying on a conversation across a screen but putting in just a little more effort makes all the difference. Remember, the other person can’t read your thoughts - and sometimes can’t even see your body language. Although it may seem unnatural at first, becoming okay with being more vulnerable than you consciously are, will strengthen the human connection.
Bottling things up never helps-even though it seems like the easier option, keeping your thoughts and emotions inside creates an invisible barrier between you and the other person, and the longer it stays up, the harder it is to tear down. Keeping an open channel of communication lets the other person know you are comfortable being honest with them, which begins to build trust in the relationship. This concept draws from something called Social Penetration Theory, which hypothesizes that the more we share, communication and the increase of depth in conversation and disclosure, the closer we will feel to the person and the more we will trust them. Strong relationships are built on trust, honesty, and openness- the same key components of effective communication.
Friends & Family Communication
Communication issues don’t only exist between couples - relationships between friends and family members are built on effective communication as well. Let’s break all this down into a simple example. Say you’re visiting a friend you haven’t seen in a while and haven’t been great at keeping in touch with recently. You carry feelings of uncertainty about your friendship, but don’t want to conform your fears by asking your friend directly. Blocking communication leads to feelings of inadequacy, increases distrust, and begins to break down that connection. By simply telling your friend how you’re really feeling about the visit and expressing your intentions towards the friendship, a much healthier solution is possible, and likely that relationship will be better for it.
These principles direct into workplace relationships. In fact, a 2012 qualitative study by
communication specialist, Geradlina Hynes suggests that interpersonal communication helps build stronger connections with coworkers through the ability to actively listen and engage with their coworkers. Additionally, individuals who sharpened their interpersonal communication grew rapport between coworkers and increased productivity. Needless to say, it’s easier to work with people who you can communicate well with and form working relationships with.
To wrap up, here are three small ways to encourage communication in your relationships daily:
• Learn how to listen - not just passively hear what the other person is saying, but active engage and listen to them.
• Be open to accepting different perspectives. This goes back into the invisible wall idea - don’t build mental barriers in your relationships. Instead, talk it out and be open to hearing the other person’s point of view even if it’s uncomfortable.
• Emphasize respect within all your relationships.
Remember, the healthiest relationships tackle the ups and downs through effective, open communication from both individuals.