Keep It R.E.A.L.

There is a process for building healthy relationships with the people around us, whether that be our work colleagues, our boss, our family members or our friends. When we become aware that there is a need to resolve an issue, whether the theme relates to establishing a co-parenting strategy or managing work load stress, fairly early on we know we must communicate. Communication isn’t just about talking about how we are experiencing the problem, but really being able to discuss the issue with a view to making changes to current actions which are inhibiting health within the relationship, and potentially ourselves. In terms of communication, it can help if you apply the method within the acronym R.E.A.L.

R is for Receptive

The person you choose to communicate the problem to must be receptive to hearing it. This means that you must not only choose the right person but you must also choose the right moment. You should avoid an ambush at all costs as this will put them into an unresponsive and defensive mode. If one or other of you are busy people, it will be advantageous to both of you to schedule a meeting, with a brief outline of what you need to discuss and why. This not only gives them a chance to consider the issue, but also reduces the potential for feeling they are under attack.

E is for Empathy

Both parties need to be able to empathise with each other, and in this respect you must both consider how each of you are affected by the problem. It may be that one of you is predominantly affected whilst the other is unaware of any problem. In this instance just remember: accusations do not promote empathy. Accusations promote alienation and make it difficult to understand each other’s situation or their perception of it. There are frequently things that will be influencing how we feel about what is happening and why we are feeling threatened by the situation. But it is also important that you are both on the same side in respect of this problem. for example, it’s more helpful to say, “This situation makes me feel…” than “You make me feel…”

A is for Assertive

When we assert ourselves, we potentiate change. Being assertive is not to be confused with being aggressive or confrontational. Definitions of the word assertive include confident, positive, decisive & self-assured. What better way to resolve a problem than to bring this attitude to the table. It’s important that there is some degree of equality in the attitude of assertiveness from both parties, otherwise one person will dominate the communication. If you consistently communicate a problem with someone who is not assertive or indecisive, it is unlikely that you will be able to collaborate in the resolution of it.

L is for Listen

Communication isn’t just about talking but it’s also extremely important that we also really listen to each other. The words we use are not just markers of identification that reflect how we view the problem and how we interpret and experience what is happening, but they correspond to our previous experiences, and therefore, our relationship with this type of problem. This is extremely important because it may be that we felt in the past like we weren’t heard or that we dealt with the problem badly. This presents us with a great opportunity to reset our relationship with this problem which helps us build healthier relationships all round.

Everything is relevant because everything is connected. Our reaction to what is happening now affects how receptive we are to dealing with the issue or even admitting that there is a problem that needs resolving. Our experience in dealing with a problem can sometimes make us feel vulnerable. Vulnerability often provokes empathy in others and in ourselves as we recognise connections. From a sense of connection, we can start to build confidence and as a consequence feel more able to assert ourselves. And, we learn that listening to each other is always the best way to be heard.

So, when it comes to communication, Keep It R.E.A.L.