Healthy communication is a skill that definitely hasn’t been adequately modelled to many of us and it’s something that all of us can choose to practice.
This is what healthy communication looks like:
- Listening to understand – Healthy and efficient communication is based on authentic listening and making the other person feel heard. You’re not just listening to respond or waiting for your turn to speak; you’re listening to understand what the other person is saying and what they mean. It’s important to try to understand where someone’s coming from – even if you disagree.
- Mutual respect – Healthy communication is all about mutual respect. You’re not attacking each other, you’re teaming up to solve an issue. That doesn’t mean that you’ll never get frustrated or angry, but it does mean that conflicts are still grounded in respect instead of judgement or abuse.
- Asking for clarification – Asking instead of assuming is central to healthy communication. When your communication is healthy, you’re free to ask for clarification instead of jumping to conclusions. Less drama, more clarity. You know that you won’t be mocked or ridiculed for asking for clarification, and you give the other person the benefit of the doubt and a chance to explain before making decisions based on assumptions.
- Authentic apologies – We all mess up sometimes. Relationships aren’t about being perfect; they’re about taking accountability and being committed to repairing the situation when something goes wrong. Healthy communication involves authentic apologies with awareness of what went wrong, talking things through, and a plan to do things differently in the future.
- Keeping the other person “in the loop” is about clarity. This doesn’t mean you have to share every thought and thing you do with the people in your life. But especially in our closest relationships, healthy communication includes keeping our loved ones in the loop about what we’re planning or how we’re feeling about certain situations or things.
- Communicating willingly and openly – Trying to force another adult to communicate is stressful and frustrating for everyone. Everyone in the relationship should be committed to open communication: choosing to talk about the important things and address things before they pile up. This can include talking about things when they emerge instead of bottling them up and expecting the other person to pick up on something being wrong, for example.
Healthy communication tips (like keeping someone ‘in the loop’ or asking for clarification) can also backfire, not work, or be actively dangerous if you’re in an unhealthy, deeply dysfunctional relationship that lacks mutual respect and safety.
What else would you add?