It is tough to figure out what makes a relationship work or what we need to do to make sure we can form healthier and better relationships with our loved ones and friends. That is why it is important that we learn the fundamentals of maintaining healthy relationships by starting with mindful communication.
I have had several friendships and relationships crumble over time, and I always felt confused and defeated by them. I wondered if it was an issue with me or with them, or was it both of us? Maybe, it just was not meant to be. But after sitting down and running through a workshop by A Kind Place on mindful communication, I realised the error in my ways. It took my time to realise but I was naïve and unaware, blindsided by the amount of effort needed to maintain the relationship.
Two tips were all I needed to realise my mistake. I was guided by Dr. Tanaphong Uthayaratana, or Mind, a counselling psychologist from Thailand, working with A Kind Place. He taught me that what I lacked was communication and understanding. Understanding meant understanding ourselves and others while communication meant sharing what we mean to each other. Without communication, we would not be able to understand each other, leading to the downfall of our relationships.
The mindful communication course breaks down the idea of mindful communication in relationships and how we can use it to strengthen and maintain our relationships, be it with friends, loved ones and partners. Mindful communication can be separated into two parts, mindful listening, and mindful speaking.
Mindful listening refers to understanding the message that the other party is trying to get across. This entails paying attention to the other party and taking an interest in what they are saying. Mindful speaking refers to maintaining focus while paying attention to how the other party reacts to what you’re saying. You may clarify your message as required by monitoring their facial expressions, body language etc. When I was having a rough patch with one of my closest friends, we were struggling to figure out what the other was truly upset about. I then decided that I would call him and ask him to resolve the issue. We talked for 2 hours and I did everything I could to fix our relationship.
- Listening without judgement: Having someone open up to you means they trust you enough not to judge what they say. Not judging involves keeping an open mind, allowing them to speak. You do not need to agree with what they say, but do not put them down or shame them.
- Listening with empathy: While listening, it is important to try and understand what they feel. Think about a time when you were in a similar situation to them, how might you feel? Or think about a time when you felt sad, hurt, in a conflict, what was that like?
- Reflecting to show understanding: Sometimes we can show understanding through repeating what they have said. This shows that we are actively listening to them.
- Do not interrupt: It’s common for us to want to interrupt. Sometimes people say things that we might not agree with or we want to jump in to give our opinions. In order to give listen to them 100%, let them finish before you say what you want to say
In my situation with my friend, I started by asking him what was on his mind, why he was upset and what went wrong. Though hesitant at first, I provided him reassurance that it was safe to share. He slowly opened up to me and explained the matter. I listened carefully and tried to understand every word he said, making me recognise the error in my ways.
- Being aware of the words that are used and how it might impact the other person (Being aware of their facial expressions, body language, their responses): Take note of how they move, how they react. Any form of reaction is important to mindful speaking
- Speaking with kind intention: We want to speak with the intent of understanding, not with just wanting to force our ideals on them. Speak with a positive tone and mindset
- Speaking without judgement or criticism: When we speak, our goal is to have them understand not to judge or criticise the things that they have said. We should never belittle them in any way.
After listening to my friend, I shared my side of the story, voicing my own issues to my friend. It took a while for me to get my message across but we later arrived at a consensus. I am truly grateful for the guidance that the mindful communication workshops have given me and do recommend it to others. It has helped mend my relationship with my friend and made a huge impact on my life, giving me a different perspective on how to communicate in relationships.
As we grow to understand each other, it may become apparent that further steps may be required to maintain our relationships. These two simple tips may seem obvious and simple but they are extremely significant when it comes to a better and healthy relationship. We may not realise it but a lot of the time, we as humans forget to just take a step back and communicate to try and understand what the other party, be it one person or many people, are saying.
If you are having conflicts in your relationships or want to learn how to communicate better, you can book a session with our therapist Dr. Mind. He has years of experience in working with couples and improving relationships.