This week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions revisits the topic of improving communication in our intimate relationships. When we recognise that we’re experiencing an issue or that we need to express difficult emotions or thoughts, we sometimes decide to keep it to ourselves so that we don’t hurt the other party’s feelings or ourselves. But the moment we do this, we’re blocking intimacy. It creates more problems than if we’d spoken up in the first place.

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  • When we avoid broaching issues with people, we don’t trust ourselves to communicate the issue or handle what follows or we don’t trust the other party to receive and handle it.
  • We often believe that we are doing the right thing by not speaking up about something and not pushing ourselves to do whatever we can to address the issue. We reason that it will stop us from hurting feelings. There’s often a fear of opening Pandora’s box or exposing ourselves to rejection or disappointment.

Maintaining our silence on issues creates far more problems than if we’d spoken up in the first place.

  • The longer we remain silent is the more shut off we feel from ourselves and the other person.
  • We wonder Is it that I’m drowning but they’re standing there watching me? Or is it that I’m drowning but they haven’t noticed?
  • There are host of reasons for avoiding communication, including:
    • Learning this communication style from our parents or learning it in response to witnessing or experiencing what we deemed to be painful examples of the results of honest communication.
    • We engage in projection. We decide what the person thinks, feels and will do and then draw a conclusion about our options from that.
    • Hinting instead of being direct so that we don’t have to be vulnerable. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. What if I get rejected? I don’t want to be abandoned.
    • Feeling as if the window of opportunity for resolution has passed.
    • Deciding that they’re ill-equipped for problem-solving and meeting our needs.

What’s the thing that you’re avoiding saying? Which question are you avoiding asking? Yeah, that’s the very thing you need to say or ask.

  • Honesty, talking about an issue, asking the question, saying how we feel — they all open us up to being surprised. We might get to discover that how we perceive things isn’t accurate.
  • It’s not worth avoiding conflict and silencing ourselves 100% of the time for the small number of occasions that meet or exceed our predictions for conflict Armageddon.
  • Burying our feelings is like burying ourselves. It saps our bandwidth and takes a toll on our interpersonal relationships and aspirations.
  • Sometimes the resolution to how we feel or an issue is the expression of our feelings or the issue.

We often have unrealistic expectations of communication in our intimate relationships. We’re very all-or-nothing thinking that we’ve got to say it perfectly or not at all.

  • It’s critical to acknowledge the baggage behind our communication habits as well as the other party’s. But, and it is a big but, we also have to be careful of rationalising to such an extent that we cross our boundaries and absolve the other party of responsibility.
  • When we endeavour to notice where we deny, rationalise, minimise, excuse or make assumptions about people, we get to a more honest place. We break through projection.
  • It’s not our job to feel other people’s feelings or to stop them from feeling them! If we don’t allow people to feel within our relationship, how can we have a relationship?
  • The longer you’ve had the issue, including how strongly you feel about it is a sign that you need to speak up.
  • The key is to be consistent. Not perfect, consistent. This includes noticing when we’ve become stuck and are not communicating as much as we typically would. When we consistently communicate who we are, our boundaries, our feelings and what bothers us, we avoid putting ourselves in the position of imploding (snapping inside and feeling depressed) or exploding (erupting at others).

Links mentioned

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