8 Essential Ways to Communicate Openly

by Janet Ong Zimmerman on 03/11/2014

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On the other side of fear is where open communication happens. 

Things That Stop the Flow of Communication

If the way you’ve expressed yourself at an early age was not received well, the residual effects may have carried into adulthood. It can show up as reading too much into things, being afraid of saying things the wrong way, not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings or fearing the negative emotions that can come from trying to communicate.

Feeling restricted limits your ability to communicate from your heart. Have you had some of these experiences from not being able to truly express yourself?

  • Concern with how you’ll be perceived
  • Having expectations like, “He should know how I’m feeling and what I want.”
  • Being passive aggressive
  • Not wanting to rock the boat
  • Being focused on something your partner said or did which keeps you from being in touch with how you really feel
  • Being misunderstood

If you’ve been in any of these situations, you are not alone. Open communication is one of the top skills that many people struggle with, both women and men.

What We Tend to Do

If you’re like many women, the way you communicate has left you feeling unheard and misunderstood at times. Do you…?

  • Have an active mind that dissects and over-analyzes things
  • Create a story in your mind to support what you’ve imagined instead of seeing things for what they are
  • Talk to your friends and family about sticky situations, instead of your partner
  • Assume something that may not exist
  • Take things personally and make what happened mean something about you

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably haven’t feel safe to express yourself openly. You may have learned how to not to speak up or how to say things in ways to appease or please others.

8 Ways to Communicate More Effectively

Communicating more effectively is possible. You are evolving and can practice expressing yourself in any of these 7 ways.

1. Be present
Authentic communication where both people are being heard happens in the present. Become present by focusing your attention in the now. Stop what you’re doing, give your partner your full attention, take some deep breaths and express yourself.

2. Just be instead of being consumed
Communicate when something happens instead of letting it consume you. If you’re not sure what to say because you need more time to process what happened, let things be until the appropriate response comes up for you. (Letting things be doesn’t mean stewing on things, holding a grudge and wanting him to make the first move.)

3. Set an intention
Instead of having expectations for how a conversation should turn out, set an intention. Intentions allow for more flexibility and help you better respond in the present moment.

4. Speak from your heart
Connect with the feelings inside of you rather than getting caught up in your thoughts. When it comes to matters of love, letting your feelings guide your conversation will help you speak from your heart.

5. Focus on you
If your partner says or does something to upset you, you may want to lash out at him or blame him. For instance, if you see your man talking to another woman, you might want to say, “Why did you flirt with her while I was here? That’s so disrespectful.” This will likely make him defensive. Instead, bring your focus to you by saying something like, “When I saw you talking with that woman, I imagined that you might be interested in her. I love being with you and this thought came to my mind, “What if he’s not that into me anymore…?” This made me feel sad and worried.”

6. Listen to understand, not defend
Instead of listening to defend your position, listening with, “If I were in his shoes…” helps you be more empathetic and compassionate to the other person. When you are listening to understand, you help him open up and be more honest with you. And in return, he becomes more empathetic and compassionate toward you. This is when both people feel heard and where deeper connections are built.

7. Feel the meaning behind the words
Many times, people say things to keep themselves from getting hurt. If you only listen to the words, you will miss what is beneath the words. The emotions and feelings that underlie words are much more revealing of what someone actually means. Pay attention to the way the message is being delivered and you may learn that there is something more going on.

8. Let different perspectives exist 
If you can truly get that we are individuals with different perspectives, you may see that there isn’t a right or wrong. If you see things differently from your partner, practice looking for the grains of truth in what he says. This will help open up your mind to other ways of thinking and you may just learn something new and useful.  (Exception: If your partner’s perspectives are immoral or unethical, this relationship may not be for you.)

Practice Makes Better

Open communication is a life-long practice. Even the best communicators find it hard to express themselves in difficult situations. Seek out opportunities to communicate openly, especially in sticky situations.

Practicing these 8 essential ways to communicate in all areas of your life will let your life and romantic relationship flow with more ease. As a result, you will feel more understood and connected with yourself and your partner.

Share your suggestions in the comments for other ways to communicate openly.

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