Nurturing Healthy Relationships: Communication & Boundaries

Do you have friendships or relationships that could be stronger? Or, maybe you need help to become closer to the people you have relationships with. Nurturing healthy relationships requires effective communication and setting clear boundaries. Maintaining open and respectful communication while establishing and respecting personal boundaries is crucial, whether with a partner, family member, friend, or colleague. I have outlined tips below on how to create stronger, healthier relationships. 

Open and Honest Communication

In all relationships, it’s important to be clear and direct with your communication to relay your feelings, needs, and desires to the other person. Clearly express your thoughts, feelings, and expectations without assuming the other person can read your mind. If you need time to gather your thoughts and feelings to express them clearly and effectively, create time for yourself to do this. When you are ready to approach the other person, you will be concise in what you need to convey to them. 

Active Listening 

Use active listening by giving the other person your full attention, listening attentively, and trying to understand their perspective. Avoid interrupting or dismissing their thoughts and feelings. Active listening means listening to what they are saying without waiting to respond or giving your opinion about what they’re telling you. Wait until they are finished getting their point across before responding. 

Use “I” statements 

Instead of blaming or accusing, focus on expressing your feelings and needs. This helps avoid defensiveness and promotes understanding. It can be difficult not to let your emotions control a conversation, especially if it is heated, but it’s important to reach an understanding between both parties. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel hurt because XYZ…” or “I am angry because I felt ignored when this happened.”

Avoid criticism and defensiveness

Be mindful of your tone and language, choosing constructive and supportive words. Avoid attacking the other person’s character or becoming defensive when they express their thoughts or concerns. If you notice physical symptoms arising during an argument, such as an elevated heartbeat, racing thoughts, uncontrollable emotions, screaming, etc., take a step back from the conversation. Excuse yourself so that you can regulate your nervous system and come back to the conversation without heightened emotions. 

Establishing Boundaries

Having to Identify your boundaries can be a tough practice. Take some time to reflect on your needs, values, and limits. Determine what is acceptable and what is not in your relationships. After you have deciphered this, practice setting boundaries with those you have relationships with. Communicate your boundaries to the other person. Use assertive communication to express your needs and expectations.

Respect others’ boundaries

Acknowledge and respect the boundaries set by the other person. Avoid pressuring or crossing their boundaries, even if you may not fully understand or agree with them. As relationships evolve, it’s important to reassess and adjust boundaries when necessary. Openly discuss any changes or concerns with the other person. A good sign of understanding when boundaries need to be adjusted, is how the interactions feel to you when with the other person. Maybe the other person is saying inappropriate things, making you feel uncomfortable. Take this as a sign to use healthy communication and adjust your boundaries with them.  

Healthy Conflict Resolution

During conflicts, strive to maintain a calm and respectful demeanor. Avoid name-calling, shouting, or derogatory language to keep the respect intact. If you feel the conversation has drifted away from the original topic or point, try to re-focus on the issue. Address the problem rather than bringing up past issues or unrelated matters. Stay on topic and work towards finding a resolution. 

Seek compromise

Look for mutually beneficial solutions where both parties needs and concerns are addressed. Be willing to negotiate and find common ground. If conflicts persist or escalate, seeking the assistance of a therapist or mediator can provide a neutral and supportive environment for resolving issues. If you want to bring the relationship or argument into therapy, contact our office to connect with a therapist to help resolve your conflict. 

Practice Empathy and Understanding

Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand the other person’s perspective, background, and emotions. This can foster empathy and help you find common ground. Acknowledge and validate the other person’s emotions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their viewpoint. Letting them know their feelings are understood and heard can go a long way in building trust. Even if you disagree with their emotions, have compassion toward the fact that they are also upset. We all strive to feel understood and seen as human beings. Relationships require patience and forgiveness. Recognize that people make mistakes, and it’s essential to forgive and move forward when appropriate.

Nurturing healthy relationships is an ongoing process that requires effort and commitment from all parties involved. Effective communication and respecting boundaries are vital to building and maintaining strong, fulfilling connections with others. If you are struggling to maintain healthy relationships, contact our office to connect with a therapist who can provide helpful tools to utilize within your relationships. 

By: Lindsey Schmid, LPC-A

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