Many mental health and couples therapy professionals will tell you that communication breakdowns are among the most common causes of relationship stress and unhealthy boundaries. Communicating with the people we love should come easily and naturally. But often, it doesn’t and is a source of miscommunications, arguments, resentment, and breakups.
October 10 was recently designated World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about mental health and help people connect with their mental health journeys. How we communicate with others profoundly impacts our mental health, so consider focusing on your communication style to benefit your mental state and the people around you as part of your overall commitment to natural health.
Focus on Assertiveness
Being assertive means honestly expressing your own feelings, wants, and needs while respecting the person you are communicating with. This is a non-threatening yet direct way of communicating that comes easier to some people than others. Assertiveness is not a personality trait but rather a learned skill that anyone can do by actively working on it. To be assertive, don’t diminish your feelings as not worthwhile or demanding that you always get your way. When you embrace an assertive communication style, you can feel more comfortable saying “no” to people without feeling guilty, stand up for yourself without being walked all over, and maintain a more positive living environment.
Practice Good Listening
Listening to the other person is a huge part of being a good communicator. Even if you have a million things on your mind, strive for balance in your conversations and allow others to talk and express themselves, too. Avoid jumping to quick conclusions, judging, or getting angry when someone disagrees with you. Rather than asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, ask open-ended questions while you are listening to allow the other person to take the conversation in the direction they choose when it is their time to speak.
Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
How you hold yourself physically speaks volumes to your communication style, even if you aren’t saying a word. To accompany your improving communication style, aim for a relaxed body position and open posture while maintaining eye contact and leaning slightly toward the other person to show interest in the conversation. Be mindful of your tone of voice and avoid distractions during conversations, such as glancing at your phone or fidgeting with your hair.
Learn How to Manage Conflict
No matter how skilled you become at communication, conflicts will still inevitably arise. The “silent treatment” is not an effective form of communication, but telling another person that you need to step away for a moment to clear your head and calm down if a conversation becomes heated is totally reasonable. Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements makes your side of the conversation more revealing about what’s on your mind rather than accusatory towards the other person. Every person communicates differently, and you may find success writing out your thoughts and exchanging letters or emails if verbal conversations are not getting your relationship to a good place. Remember, no one is a mind-reader, so you must be open and vulnerable with your thoughts and feelings if you want your needs met and to continue a healthy and positive relationship with someone else.
Talk to a Therapist
Fortunately, professional help is available if you need guidance with adjusting your communication style in general or with another specific person. These days, many insurance plans offer free mental health services so that virtual consultations are free and easy to work around your schedule with a phone or video call. In-person therapy may work better for some people and couples and make a big difference in breaking through communication barriers to save a relationship you care about.
Mental health resources:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline
- National Institutes of Health Help for Mental Illnesses
Seagate blogs about mental health: