Have you ever wanted to handle a conflict with more ease? Have a difficult conversation with your teen without losing it? Feel really heard and understood by the people in your life?
Our relationships are messy, and yet they’re everything.
I’d wager that your personal happiness is directly related to the quality of your relationships. Yet, we’re not really taught how to cultivate amazing relationships.
Our national, and even international, political climate has put a spotlight on our communication struggles lately.There is a great need both within families and broader communities to listen to each other, to reach understanding across differences, and to strive for connection over division.
Here’s an excerpt from“Naked Communication: Courageously Create the Relationships You Really Want” to support you as you navigate the maze of interpersonal relationships:
“One of the common pitfalls of effective communication is to skirt around what you really want to say, what you really need, or how you really feel. It’s an easy way of avoiding the hard conversations that require courage and vulnerability.
Let me give you an example:
I was sitting in my office across from a distraught mom of a teenage boy. They were always fighting. She couldn’t reach him anymore. She didn’t know what was happening to him or why he was always so angry with her.
She gave me the example of their usual morning. He’s getting ready to leave for school, dressed in his “skater look,” ripped-up jeans hanging low, boxers visible to the world, beat-up sneakers, hoodie.
“Pull up your pants,” she says. He rolls his eyes. “Don’t give me attitude first thing in the morning.” Another eye roll. “Really, you look like a bum.” He turns away. Mom’s voice raises. Son retreats further into his hoodie and wants to get away from her as quickly as possible.
Now mom’s in tears in the school counseling office, wondering what happened to her sweet boy.
My question, “What are you really trying to tell him?”
Because it’s not about the jeans. The jeans alone don’t make you this sad and upset.
The answer, “I’m scared he’s getting into drugs and he’ll go down the wrong path like I did and I don’t want him to suffer that way. I’m terrified.”
Here’s the thing: We often spend a lot of time and energy fighting, talking, criticizing and nitpicking without addressing the actual issue that’s bothering us.
It’s a super common communication challenge. This lovely mom, who adored her son, was struggling to speak honestly about what she really wanted him to know.
That she loved him. That she had made mistakes when she was his age that had caused her a lot of suffering. That she wanted him to be safe. That he could trust her and talk to her about his life.
Instead, she constantly picked fights with him over seemingly unimportant things, such as his clothes.
As you can imagine, this created the opposite outcome to what she desired. Instead of an open and connected relationship with her son, he wanted nothing to do with her and thought she was a total pain in the ass. Lose-lose situation.
So, I ask you… What are you really trying to communicate with the people in your life?
Look at what is getting in your way of the honest communication just below the surface that wants to be expressed.
You’re pissed at your partner for coming home 30 minutes late again, so you pick a fight about dinner.
In fact, you want to say, “I really want you home when you say you’ll be home because I need to know I can trust you to do what you say you will.”
You want to work on a really cool new project at work, but so far you haven’t been added to the project’s team. So, you keep gossiping with colleagues about the project’s design flaws, or that the development schedule isn’t right.
Instead, you want to say to your boss, “I have some ideas that I think could be really relevant to this project. Could we meet to discuss them?”
Usually there’s underlying communication we haven’t expressed when we’re fighting about the same things again and again. Or when we’re gossiping with the people who have no power to effect the change we desire.
I know sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. And, I know it’s scary to be honest and clear.
I also know that effective communication fuels more connected relationships. And more connected relationships make us happier and more fulfilled. And being happier and more fulfilled is where it’s at, right? We all want to feel good.
Next time you find yourself nitpicking at your kid, your husband, your co-worker… ask yourself, “Is there something else I’m really trying to say here?”
And then, with compassion and courage, say what you mean.
I promise you, as you improve your naked communication skills, your relationships will grow and evolve. And your happiness will too.
Yes, shit will hit the fan at times. Challenges will show up. You’ll find yourself hooked in your old patterns of communicating. You’ll walk away from an interaction and kick yourself because you know you didn’t handle it nakedly.
That’s fine. That’s normal! Go back to what I share in this book and keep practicing. No one nails their communication every time. No one. But, you become masterful at naked communication so that you can truly cause the connections you desire with all the different types of people in your life.”