By Pamela L. Tippit, LPC-S
Communication: Creating Healthy Boundaries
As I continue to practice as a therapist, I understand more and more the real value of clear communication. Creating healthy boundaries using communication often means the difference in feeling connected, heard, valued or misunderstood, dismissed, and/or isolated. When we do not communicate our thoughts and feelings well, or even at all, our internal dialogue can take over. The internal dialogue, although helpful at times, will have us engaging in all sorts of irrational thoughts such as jumping to conclusions, personalizing things that actually have nothing to do with us, or mind-reading, which thankfully, none of us can really do!
I work with clients on doing the following to strengthen their communication, relationships, and to minimize codependent tendencies:
Understand what you need and want. If you are unsure about your needs and wants, spend time exploring this through a self-care activity.
This could include journaling or developing a working, consistent relationship with a mental health professional.
Use “I” statements when you want to clearly express your feelings, needs, and wants.
Using “I” statements is a good place to start when working on expressing ourselves clearly. Avoid statements such as “I am sad because YOU…”
Stay focused on the clear expression of your feelings without placing blame.
Own your thoughts and feelings.
Discuss the issue or the behavior, not the person. Using language that can be perceived as degrading or a put down does not improve your communication with anyone.
Avoid saying “You NEVER communicate with me!” or “You are a terrible communicator!”
Instead, try saying “I feel isolated when you do not talk to me about how you’re feeling.”
Take turns talking. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the heat of a discussion or argument, we are often simply listening to respond, especially when triggering words such as “You NEVER” or “You ALWAYS” are said.
Practice being an active listener. Allow yourself to receive the message of the speaker WITHOUT preparing your comeback in your head and waiting for the person to take a breath before firing your comeback. You may be surprised at what you become aware of.
The goal of improved communication is to understand and to be understood, not to be right. Use these tips to start creating healthy boundaries and begin to reframe communication with this goal in mind. Let go of “getting your point across” and allow yourself to be present and connect.
Time, Energy, and Effort. Spend Wisely.