Open communication sustains relationships. Both partners need to be aware of one another’s needs, for everyone to be as happy as possible. Some of us keep our needs and feelings bottled up inside, leaving us feeling unsatisfied, unimportant, or unloved. Wondering how can you help your partner help you? Read on…
It happens to all of us. We hold on to our thoughts and don’t say them because we are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings. We stuff them down inside and just stay silent. We may grouse about them later with someone else, but most of the time a lot of us don’t speak up.
Open Communication for Getting Your Needs Met
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. This is one of the most common themes I come across while helping people in counseling. Most people are aware they do this, and they are not sure how to change it because it’s something they have always done…put their feelings aside and take care of the other person first.
This isn’t a bad way to be, unless you are the person who isn’t saying what needs to be said and you are not getting what you need out of your life. Then there might be some resentment building up because others are not realizing you haven’t had your say. When you find yourself in this condition for a long time you may be getting angry at the people who don’t seem to understand you. Then we have some work to do, and you can do it in three steps.
Recognizing Opportunities to Speak Up
The first step in changing this dynamic is to realize that you are not saying things when you feel them. I know there’s a real fear of something or you would already be speaking your mind. We will get to that later. The first step is to just become aware that you hold in your thoughts and feelings inside yourself and stay silent.
Once you can understand that you do this often we can move on. But to really get this, you need to be in a situation where you don’t speak your mind and can then actually say to someone, “Wow, I thought… and I didn’t say anything.”
Overcoming Obstacles to Open Communication
It helps to identify what’s keeping you from speaking up. You might fear something or have, long ago, been conditioned not to speak up. You might have grown up being told that you shouldn’t share your thoughts and feelings. Maybe people yelled at you when you spoke your mind. It could even be that you were taught to suppress your needs and wants. Whatever the reason, you were probably well-trained and are now an expert at not speaking what you feel and think.
As an adult you might now worry how other people will react to you if you speak out. The second step is to gain an understanding of what you believe will happen if you do speak your mind. Will people leave? Will people hit? Will people yell? Think about what you are worried about. Try and imagine the worst reaction someone would make and then consider if you can handle it. If the answer is yes we move on to step three.
Open Communication Requires Bravely Speaking Up in the Face of Your Fears
Next time you feel and think something, instead of stuffing it, you are going to take a risk, try a new behavior, and just SAY IT! You will survive the person’s reaction because you have already considered it. That’s how we get rid of fear and make changes.
No one said it would be easy. I know it’s hard because you haven’t done it before. I also know it’s worth it. You will feel heard, perhaps for the first time, and that’s a new feeling you can’t afford not to experience.
Need a Helping Hand with Open Communication in Your Relationship?
Read a Book On Open Communication in Relationships
Can’t make it on Monday? Reinforce your open communication skills by reading reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It explains how communication problems are barriers to getting what you need in relationships, and explains new ways you can try to overcome those problems. Give it a read.