Counsellor Faith Komane says effective communication is important because it allows us to resolve conflict. “Conflict is unavoidable in relationships because of differences in opinion, disagreements and misunderstandings. If you struggle to communicate effectively, then you’ll struggle with conflict resolution.”
She says both parties need to be willing to communicate constructively. Successful communication in a healthy relationship occurs when two people take the time to hear each other out; understand what their partner says and wants, and then either come to an agreement or disagree, and try again later. This allows them to resolve the conflict.
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On the other hand, in abusive relationships, it becomes difficult to have healthy and effective communication because the only one who will ever attempt real communication is the abused person. “Abusers are often manipulative and controlling, and exert power and dominance over their partners. They are not willing to hear or understand what their partner is saying or needs. The abuser’s aim is to weaken the other person and then win; this is because abuse is a choice. The abuser already knows that their actions are harmful and controlling,” Komane explains.
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1. Create a safe space to communicate: This means picking the right time to talk. Don’t wait for an argument to raise issues or address things when emotions are running high. Find a time when you are both calm and not distracted or stressed. This creates a suitable environment for conversation.
2. Allow yourself to calm down: When you are angry, upset or annoyed, allow yourself time to process your emotions and calm down, before you communicate your frustrations to your partner. When you address issues with heightened emotions, you tend to attack and become defensive – this escalates the conflict.
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3. Be mindful of your word choice and tone: Avoid shouting or using harsh tones. This makes the other person less receptive to your message. The intention might not be to attack or provoke. But, our choice of words may come across as attacking and make others defensive. Use more “I” statements instead of “you”. For example, rather than saying “You never help me with anything in the house, I have to do everything”, say “I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done in the house”.