It doesn't take much for a little miscommunication in a relationship to spiral out of control. You unintentionally say something hurtful, the other person snaps back and pretty soon you're slamming doors and trust and respect are melting away. While it's impossible to avoid conflict entirely in most relationships, you can learn to communicate with people in a way that builds trust and respect instead of eroding it.
Honesty And Openness
Every healthy relationship includes honest and open communication going both ways. For example, if a parent, friend or significant other hurts your feelings, you should bring up relevant problems and concerns instead of hiding them. This doesn't mean that you should bite the person's head off, yelling and screaming when you think he or she has it coming. Instead, you should discuss your concern in a calm, non-accusatory way. This allows you to resolve problems while still building up your mutual trust and respect. Conversely, you need to be willing to listen when others need to discuss issues they have with you.
One way to build respect in any relationship is to be approachable when someone wants to talk to you. If you immediately display pride, anger or any sort of front when someone provides feedback, you shut down an opportunity to communicate in a healthy, respectful way. Being approachable helps other people trust you when they open up to you. For example, if a friend tells you that you hurt her feelings, your knee-jerk reaction might be to fight back and point out one of her shortcomings. Resist the temptation -- instead, listen to what she says to show her that you respect her opinions. If you have something you need to communicate to her in return, wait until she feels like you've heard her first.
Compassion, Not Judgment
When someone says something that causes you to react negatively, do your best to put yourself in his shoes and understand where he is coming from instead of passing judgment. According to Marshall B. Rosenberg, author of "Nonviolent Communication," moralistic judgments like "she's lazy" or "he's selfish" destroy your ability to be compassionate and communicate effectively. For example, when your co-worker annoyingly asks you to pick up his late shift for the fifth time this month, resist the urge to think of him as a lazy slacker. Instead, listen to his request and ask questions if necessary. Perhaps he has an illness or trauma in his family. Even if you're not able to provide what he asks for, your interaction is going to help him to feel trusted and respected instead of judged.
Your Feelings Vocabulary
One of the most effective tools in communication is a robust feelings vocabulary, which helps you communicate honestly without conveying judgment. This helps the other person respond compassionately and respectfully in return. These words, which are expressed following the phrase "I feel," should be specific about emotions, rather than being vague, making an assessment about the situation or interpreting someone else's behavior. According to Rosenberg, good examples of feelings words include "disappointed," impatient," "helpless" and "frustrated." Poor examples include "inadequate," "misunderstood," "unimportant" and "ignored." For example, an honest but respectful approach might be, "I felt frustrated when you were late because we missed the bus." In this way you're owning your feelings instead of accusing the other person with words such as, "I felt unimportant to you when you didn't show up on time." Non-accusing interactions build mutual trust.
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