How to Communicate Effectively and Create Loving Connection
People tend to say “communication is key” or “you have to communicate to have a good relationship” but honestly, what is good communication? How is it going to help you create a more loving, peaceful and passionate relationship with your partner?
Simply put, good communication is “heart to heart connection” When we speak from our hearts we are being honest and authentic about ourselves creating more understanding, enabling us to resolve conflicts and show deeper love and appreciation, developing a stronger intimate bond with our significant other or other people important in our lives. I am imagining you may be asking “Well, how do I do that, and what does “heart to heart communication” really mean? “
It is actually a simple equation of: Consciousness + Compassion + Collaboration + Curiousity = Connection
When you have created “heart to heart connection” using the Four C’s , love, respect, & understanding can be truly ignited and maintained, creating more intimate and fulfilling loving relationships.
There are 5 key elements to great heart centered communication.
1. Consciousness: You need to really know yourself, become aware of your own feelings, needs, vulnerabilities and values and how you become emotionally reactive in relationship with your loved one. This can be very challenging to learn as it means we all need to become more aware of our underlying feelings, which in conflict or disagreement can be a real struggle. We are usually quite aware of our secondary emotions which show up as feeling upset, annoyed, frustrated, overwhelmed or angry and in our typical way of interacting we are unaware of our underlying primary feelings of fear, hurt, anxiety, sadness, vulnerability, insecurity, shame, feeling unloved, to name only a few.
It takes awareness and practice to notice our real feelings and takes courage to express them (see bottom of article on how to do this) Usually these are more vulnerable feelings and ones we would prefer not to acknowledge or share with anyone. When we communicate from this more authentic place others can hear us differently and you can collaborate to resolve differences from understanding each other’s deeper feelings, needs and values. This in turn creates a stronger connection between you.
We all need to learn to take responsibility for our own feelings in relationship and learn that there is no room for “blaming or criticism” in any relationship. Blaming/Criticism is one bad habit of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” which Dr. John Gottman says will doom any relationship to conflict and potential failure.
The hint here is to only share how you are feeling, what is important to you, without blaming or criticizing anyone else for your experience. When we learn that each circumstance or upset, no matter what, is our own responsibility, we are becoming emotionally intelligent. How we react to our feelings about anything or anyone says more about our own beliefs, perspectives and imaginings than it does about them or what you may believe they are doing to you.
When I am reacting and not sure of why I am having a reaction I ask myself: what am I thinking, how am I judging, what am I resisting or attached to and I try to remember not to believe everything I think.
2. Listening: You need to be able to listen without judgment or interrupting. SSSSHHHH. Listening does not mean that your mouth is moving or that your brain is already in rebuttal mode, it means that you are entirely engaged with your partners experience, how they are feeling as they struggle to express what is going on for them. It means that you don’t assume that you already know and understand what your partner is trying to express, it doesn’t mean that you take any of what they are saying personally.
It means you are LISTENING INTENTLY to what is being said, what is happening for them, what has upset them, what your partner values and how they want something to be different to fulfill a need they have. A need could be as simple as tidiness or as important as respect, but all worthy of your time, compassion, cooperation and collaboration to resolve.
Then when you have managed this huge feat of listening, you need to find some more…………….
3. Compassion Again: You need to have an endless well of compassion. Empathy and compassion are the underlying premise of all heart to heart conversations and is the cord between your two hearts. Compassion is different than sympathy and is simply the ability to remain in your loving heart and be with your partner’s pain even when it is sometimes directed at you. This can be very difficult to actually achieve, however it is vitally important to a loving relationship. You also need to be able to reflect back what you partner is expressing and how it makes sense to you knowing your loved ones values.
Compassionate Reflection is the action required after listening, to show your partner you have heard and understood what they have communicated.
For instance, my son is (occasionally) lovely at showing compassion. When I am upset he will ask me what I need, what is going on and then after sharing how I feel he will say something like “Oh Mom I can hear you are feeling hurt and that makes sense to me knowing how relationships are so important to you and how much you value your friendships”
Amazing young man, he acknowledged what I was feeling, reflected back compassionately and understood my feelings based on what he knows to be my values. I feel heard, understood and accepted and to be honest for me, that equates to feeling loved.
“When you truly put your heart on the line and invest selflessly into your relationships you are putting yourself in a vulnerable place but it pays off and the rewards are endless”
quote by one “heart centered compassionate wise “16 year old son.
Can you name one person who doesn’t like being understood, acknowledged and appreciated? I know I can’t.
4. Curiousity & Collaboration: It is invaluable to be deeply interested in what your partner is expressing, reflect what you heard, check it out, make sure what you heard is what your partner intended to mean, and do your best to understand what is important to them and what they are asking for..
Have you ever listened to a child who is curious about something? They are unequalled in their persistence to get the answers so they can understand.
Curiousity shows that you care, that you are interested, that your partner is important to you and if you can stay curious even in times of conflict, then you have most likely vanquished relationship killers “Assuming and taking things Personally”
This is also where the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse – Defensiveness must not gallop into the relationship. The opposite of curiousity is defending and if you want a deeply intimate connection with your loved one then it is important to stay present to what is happening, what is trying to happen and collaboratively decide what needs to happen going forward. Being curious about your partner’s life, how they experience it and appreciate their perspective is the key to love and connection and creates an unbreakable bond between you and your partner.
5. Body Language: You need to be open. Your body language says a lot about you and whether you are open and accepting of your partner and what they are saying to you, or whether you are being defensive or distant. We can give a whole different message if we are not conscious of how we are physically showing up. We need to have an open body stance without crossed arms, eye to eye contact and affectionate reassuring touch so our partners can feel our availability, our love and acceptance even in conflict.
It is vitally important that we do not give in to the Third and Fourth Horseman – Distancing and Contempt and are close cousins. Distancing or withdrawing is obvious in that nothing can be resolved if you are physically or emotionally unavailable for communication and connection and may send a message to your partner that they are unimportant. Contempt can be subtle but is an extremely negative signal that is not only physically damaging to the receiver but is the main cause of relationship failure. Contempt can be as small a gesture as an “eyeball roll” a “downturn of the lip” signifying judgment and disapproval, to the extreme of condescending comments and disdainful or disapproving put downs. If a person lives with contempt it increases their chances of ill health and depression. So I want to encourage you all to refrain from any contemptuous behavior. Compassion is the antidote to contempt, and body language shows love and acceptance through being in a relaxed open posture with eye to eye connection.
So now you have the basic “4 C’s of Great Communication “which if used regularly will create more love, fulfillment and passion in your relationship.
Consciousness + Compassion + Collaboration + Curiousity = Loving Connection
I hope that these insights have been helpful for creating loving connections with your partner.
Relationship Self-Reflection & Accountability
You are the primary caregiver of all of your own needs physically, emotionally & spiritually. If you find yourself triggered and feeling anxious & panicked it is important to take some time to reflect on the real causes of the upset so as to not damage your relationships. Here are some ideas to help you stay with your own process and not get into the judging and blame game with your partner
Here are a few questions we all can ask ourselves in regards to the issue at hand:
1. What am I feeling? Check in with your body, what can you feel and check in with what you are thinking, what am I saying to myself this means. Is it about something else current or historical?
Am I being triggered? Why might that be? What story are you telling yourself?
2. Given these feelings, what do I need or want? How can I take responsibility and care for this? If appropriate, what do I need from my partner? Be concrete & specific ie: compassion, listening, acknowledgement……..
3.Through compassion and curiosity spend some time contemplating: What is my partner’s perspective? Their feelings & needs based on what you know about them or by what they are expressing?
4. Is there anything that I need to take responsibility for regarding the relationship issue at hand? Am I causing disconnection & suffering? What am I doing that is contributing to the problem? Ie: self defeating games like using my anger, quitting, lying, being defensive, blaming, criticizing and using contempt to name a few. What do I need to validate & acknowledge in my partner’s experience?
5. How will I share this information? Considering tone, timing, and honestly asking yourself: Am I ready (are you still reactive)? Am I coming from a place of love and an open heart with the intention to achieve understanding and to create connection?
“It has been said that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives”Some of my favourite reading suggestions are:
Non-Violent Communication by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson
Conscious Loving by Gay and Katie Hendrix