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This post comes from a series I wrote as part of a private Tumblr account, way back in 2012. I thought it would be cool to reproduce some of my amateur psychology here 🙂

I talked about empathy in my last post, and now I want to talk about something that sits hand-in-hand with empathy to form the basis of any successful relationship – be that friendship, romance, or the relationship between members of a family.

Communication.

Communication is more than being able to take part in discussions with other people. True communication can be difficult and challenging, and many people try to avoid having to communicate properly, with frequently negative results.

How many times have you seen, or been involved in,  a relationship where the communication dries up, and resentment sets in. Then at some key moment – often triggered by the most trivial of events – a huge argument breaks out. The subject is rarely related to the inciting incident, and usually involves bringing up a number of grievances and complaints that havent been previously discussed.  As a result, the relationship is damaged or ended.

Communication is a way of expressing empathy and it’s best imagined as a two-way flow of energy between two people. The channels through which this energy flows must be kept open at all times, because as soon as the communication is hampered, or ceases, pressure begins to build. The inability to express feelings or thoughts becomes a frustration that leads to resentment.

What does this mean in practical terms:

  • Talking with the other party about communication, and agreeing to mutually share thoughts and feelings, whether negative or positive
  • Fostering an environment where it’s OK to express negative thoughts or complaints without criticism
  • Focusing on being constructive when criticising others
  • Becoming used to communicating openly, making it a habit
  • Learning to identify the feeling when a thought or feeling is being withheld, and having a system in place to get those feelings across and relieve the tension
  • Learning about the other party in the relationship. Through empathy and experience, you come to understand the other person’s needs and feelings and can therefore ensure you dont place yourself or the relationship in jeopardy by not being sensitive to those needs
  • Using communication as a way to improve each other’s lives.

By being open and honest you avoid the mental expense of having to lie or avoid discussing topics. You gain self confidence by finding that your feelings are often accepted, your ideas are frequently sound, and that the fears you harbour over your inner thoughts are often unfounded. And when you do face challenges, having experience with being open with others means that these challenges can be met as early as possible, avoiding much more complicated situations in future.

Communicating openly is often difficult, especially for males. It’s not seen as manly or strong to share minor concerns or discuss feelings with others. It’s a skill that takes time to develop, and where possible your first communication partner should be someone you trust and who accepts you for who you, and wants to journey along the same path.

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