Cultivating healthy communication | The Salvation Army

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Cultivating healthy communication

a couple talking
Posted June 21, 2019

Communication is something we all do, every day. When was the last time you stopped to think about how you are communicating? What we speak and what we write either cultivates connection or challenges it.

Is it possible to disagree with someone without being disagreeable? How can we have a meaningful and respectful conversation with someone who has a very different view than the one we hold true?

Author of Loving on Purpose, Danny Silk, says that most often the goal in communication is agreement—we try to persuade each other to agree with our stance. ‘The longer you refuse to respond to my efforts to convince you to agree with me, the more anxiety grows in the conversation. Before long, the battle lines are drawn and we are allowing our need to be right to overtake our need to protect our connection,’ says Silk.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Sure, we can have some robust conversations about whether pineapple on pizza is acceptable. But what about issues that really matter to people? The ‘End of Life Choice Bill’, abortion law or the legalisation of marijuana. Or, perhaps even more personally, our Christian beliefs on everything from evolution to equality. These are issues that are hotly debated online and in person. We tend to plant our feet firmly on one side of a barbed wire divide.

How can we dialogue about important topics in a way that honours the other person, even if we disagree with them?

Watch out for relationship killers - According to Silk, a relationship killer is ‘a message that invalidates or disqualifies one person’s thoughts, feelings or needs in some way’. Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end, when you’ve mentioned your feelings and the person responds with, ‘Well, that’s not logical’.

What’s your lens? - We each see the world through different lenses. If we have personally been affected by something, our perspective will be very different than someone who hasn’t. Perhaps you’ve nursed a loved one through a painful death. Were you born into violence, or a loving family? Have you always had enough money, or have you needed foodbank assistance? Our experiences inform our views, and it’s important to recognise our own bias.

The goal is understanding - If we shift focus from ‘agreement’ to ‘understanding’, our perspective changes. ‘The person whose goal is to understand says: “I want to understand your unique perspective and experience. I want to understand the truth of what is happening inside you. And I want you to understand the same things about me. If I understand your heart, then I can move toward you in ways that build our connection. I can respond to your thoughts, respect your feelings and help to meet your needs”,’ sums up Silk.


Seven tips for productive conversations:

1    Be mindful of your tone
2    Don’t use ‘you’ statements
3    Do your research
4    Don’t get personal
5    Be mindful of your body language
6    Assume best intent
7    Know when to take a break

Source: Carly Stec,