Communication is critical to growing and nurturing relationships of all kinds. When we communicate about our feelings, we come from either love or fear. In other words, we communicate either authentically or from a place of vulnerability. Communicating authentically will always improve a relationship, even when what we communicate is not something the other wants to hear. Communicating from a place of vulnerability will rarely improve a relationship. The only time communicating from vulnerability helps is when you’re communicating from a place of authentic vulnerability, and that’s a difficult skill to learn. Therefore, it’s important to be able to discern where you’re coming from… ideally before you open your mouth to speak.
Here are some signs you are communicating from vulnerability:
1. You snap back a quick response, like a knee-jerk reaction, without thinking.
2. You are more concerned with getting your point across than listening to what the other person is saying.
3. You feel attacked by what the other is saying (also a sign that the other person may be speaking from vulnerability).
4. You say things to hurt the other person or make them feel badly.
If you’d like to cultivate your ability to communicate authentically, I have these suggestions:
1. Be present to what the other person is saying. That means listening to their words and their nonverbal communication. It means not formulating your response while they’re still talking.
2. Pause before responding. Take a couple of seconds to notice how you feel about what they said, and to decide what you want to say.
3. Be honest and kind. Thank them for their openness, and let them know how you felt about what they said. If you have something else to say, do so after acknowledging what they said first.
In arguments, there are many other tools you can use. I’ll write about them next time. For all other conversations about your feelings, these three tips are a good start. It may feel awkward at first, but keep practicing until it becomes second nature.