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What does healthy communication look like?

Communication is one of the biggest predictors of relationship satisfaction; however, it can be one of most difficult things for us to master. There are different types of communication styles: verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication is what we say and how we say it. Non-verbal communication includes active listening, body posture, and gestures (like smiling and nodding during a conversation). Healthy communication includes a mixture of good verbal and non-verbal communication. This means maintaining eye contact, giving the other person your full attention, and speaking clearly and specifically while avoiding negative communication styles like insults and yelling. When we are able to communicate in a healthy way, it can help us get our point across and make the other person feel heard. 

How does having poor communication affect me and disagreements?

No matter the relationship (whether romantic, platonic, familiar, or profession), we will experience disagreements or conflict. Having disagreements and conflict isn’t necessarily the problem, but it’s the way we talk about the conflict that matters. When we don’t practice good communication, it can be easy for both parties to feel frustrated and angry when trying to communicate their sides. During this time, negative communication styles become present, this includes universals (e.g., you always/never do this), defensiveness, eye rolling, sighs, stonewalling, and criticism. This is when a disagreement becomes a fight, and the main issue isn’t even important anymore. When arguments and disagreements turn into a fight, we begin to have ruptures in our relationship, and we begin to feel sad, resentful, or even apathetic towards the other person. 

How can I practice better communication?

Whether you have good or bad communication, you can always learn better ways to talk to your loved one and manage conflict. Some things you can do to practice better communication and conflict resolution, is to understand why you’re arguing. An argument is a great opportunity for you and the other person to learn something important about each other. For example, if the other person hurt your feelings, this is an opportunity to share why that hurt your feelings so that you both can avoid this moving forward. Taking breaks is another important part of communication. Sometimes, it isn’t the right time to talk about an issue. If you’re both angry, it probably isn’t the best time to have the conversation. Setting a time to have the conversation when you both have calmed down allows for healthier communication to occur. Finally, be sure to be specific, use “I” statements, pay attention to the other person, wait your turn, and validate their feelings (this doesn’t mean agree!). Implementing new communication skills can be difficult. If you’re continuously having communication issues and disagreement a therapist can help you both learn how to navigate conflict better. 

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.