How to reduce communication driven toxicity in relationships?
Ever wondered after even trying so hard to be the “good” partner/parent/friend/son-daughter you are still not able to feel happy or see other person feel happy in the relationship? Even the thought of or doing a simple conversation about a normal topic ends up in a fight or spoilt and irritable mood? Do you sometimes find yourself stuck in a confused state as to overthink about whether to keep little things to yourself or talk it out with that person – but either way it feels emotionally exhausting!
Sometimes in just fine or healthy relationships, toxicity majorly get its seeds planted from disconnected communication, lack of cooperation and support from either person in their interpersonal bonds – be it relationship with parents, partner or friends.
Somewhere down the road we all are living fear/insecurity-oriented lives. This fear or insecurity, in terms of human interaction, can show up in our relationships as toxicity.
Seeds of toxicity in communication can come from
· Cognitive biases
· Mean sarcasm
· Being over critical
Quick Check In to make this read more effective àthink of the last disturbing or unsettling communication you had with your loved one – any discussion/argument – as a listener or speaker and just witness the entire conversation.
Answer this to yourself
- Was there any concern/issue in the communication or any important agenda?
- What it was like in terms of your emotions and bodily experience before, during and post conversation?
Write down your personal experience divided in the given way.
o Frustration for not being understood/heard
o Any other?
o Shortness of breath or notice any breathe change
o Clenching of shoulders
o Tightness in muscles of back and neck
o Uncomfortable sensation in stomach
o Any other?
o Shut down
o Nail biting
o Tone raising
o Change in body position to more alert posture
o Tapping of foot/leg
o Fidgeting with fingers
o Sweating in hands
o Try to distract ourself by scrolling on phone
o Any other?
Can you reflect back and see how this communication was wrapped up with emotional state and painful past experience? Did it make your feel if you were stressed in your body or due to that day’s routine? Or were you put in position of vulnerability – as in – you were being blamed or blaming other person for something happened against expectation, or you were feeling threatened?
Now that you were able to recall your past communication experience – this activity brought you to “your present moment” that was during that communication. It was just to give the idea of how automatic a communication is run by all these 3 elements all together at once, and awareness of them can help you break the pattern. This is to understand how our subconscious cyclic emotional experiences keep us stuck in the loop of inability to authentically and consciously showing ourselves in a conversation and hinders us from being able to achieve a more synced communication.
3 elements of healthy communication, which we can also understand as a more “softened communication”.
Simply means BEING PRESENT and how can we do that is by witnessing and acknowledging these emotional and bodily changes in that moment that are arising from being offended/hurt/defensive, etc and not react to it immediately.
Practising consciousness consistently – of being in the experience of our body, in here where sensations live. This is a way to achieve authenticity of ourself, and tune into our dysfunctional dialogues and thoughts and not say it so as to avoid the aggravation. (Here, not saying it does not mean to supress it, but to process it within yourself first) This effort it well-investing and can lead us to a more softened communication. It is a complete intentional and an important foundational practise.
In a relaxed and regulated body brain and heart stay in coherence. The neural pathways connect our heart to an area of brain – amygdala – which is also known as emotional centre (deals with fear/insecure feelings of brain). This part catches safe and unsafe signals (here, in terms of disliking of what other person may have said) from the environment (here, in terms of an ongoing communication) and gets synchronized with our heart beat, helps us to determine and adapt to emotional state derived from the situation.
Ever faced a situation where other person keeps bringing up old instances, where they were hurt, angry, disheartened, into present communication? This is because when we experienced hurt/threat/anger emotion in our heart, it activates the emotional part of brain(amygdala) which is also responsible for memory – therefore the more emotional the event is, the more likely you are able to remember – therefore if you are hurt it takes time to let go and keep bringing same old instances unnecessarily.
Now, during a conversation when heart-beat speeds up or slows down – our brain is constantly scanning our body for the unsettling sensations – brain assumed that there is a stress-based reason. A rational step to take is, if, during the conversation, you observe any bodily changes in yourself or other person or you realise the pattern is repeating, both the parties should take a time-out, and drink water, or take a deep breath – to get hour heart and brain in sync. If your heart beat gets normal, your brain will get the signal that nothing is wrong, and continue with the communication. This is yet another way to avoid aggravation.
Listening means learning to separate your perception for some time to actually allow yourself to receive what other person has to offer, allow yourself to witness different intentions/purpose behind other person’s communication. Whether other person’s narrative has a pattern of proving oneself right or to demand any change, etc. Identify their narrative, label and look at them separately – practising this will help you to just listen and not react to it. We speak our points out, in order to gain some active control to ourselves, instead we can allow ourselves to gain passive control by listening as well, to cultivate peace wellbeing of both participants in the communication.
Heart to heart Communication – space created by cultivating the ability to be emotionally attuned to the other person by showing up in the space authentically. As in, you can attune with other person the best, when you are authentically connected within yourself. It’s when you are able to honour yourself and other person as two separate yet respectable beings.
For e.g.: If during a conversation you are not agreeing to what other person is saying. Then just objectively express your disagreement by saying “I do not agree to this, because of ________ so and so reason. Most of the times we express our disagreement or offense by disrespecting them either by change in our tone, harsh words or body language. Be fully transparent and true to yourself. Disagree and not Disrespect. This may help you to sustain your attunement even in uncomfortable conversations.
5. Language – Verbal and Non-verbal
Verbal – words we use to express our thoughts and feelings are influenced by our culture (media, modelled from family members), past experience, level of consciousness, etc. Sometimes, it so happens that words come out of our mouth unintentionally, which we don’t mean. Or be it in anger or frustration., we say out loud in most critical, invalidating, insensitive tone or language. However, it’s in your hand and choice as to use your words as a stabbing weapon to hurt others and oneself, in a threatening way or use them as soft healing cream in a non-threatening way.
Non-Verbal – message our body language, facial express, hand gestures, etc + other cues registered outside our awareness communicate to others are also influenced by our culture, past experiences, level of consciousness, etc. If you want to soften your way of communication, you can always learn and ask is there any change that occurs in my body language, while I listen that you don’t like? Often this body language is addressed as passive aggressively “showing rude attitude” – folding arms while listening, blunt eye contact. Once you are aware of it, you can always consciously work on changing it.
Because, even though we may not be speaking things, our bodies still will be.
Softened Communication will feel like
If you are able to achieve any of the above points, then intentional practiseof above elements can bring you and keep you and another person on the same page. Yes, PRACTISE because, a healthy-softened and non-threatened way of communication is a “skill” that we are never taught in are growing years, but its never too late to shower your relationships with some love and kindness.
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