Written by: Courtney Kershaw.
I was having a conversation with someone the other day about the challenges of communicating with loved ones. She was saying that recently it’s become clear to her that there is a wide gap between how she is able to talk with colleagues or casual acquaintances as opposed to her closest people.
I know she’s not the only one to feel this way because I identified with the struggle as well. So why is it sometimes the hardest with the people we love?
After thinking on this for a while the simplest answer seemed to be the most accurate: because it matters more. Being close to someone inherently means there might be more to lose if there is conflict. It might hurt more for your parent, partner, or best friend to disagree with you or dismiss you than it would if Jan from accounting did.
It also might mean something different. When you try to share your opinions, state your needs, or exert a boundary with someone you aren’t that close to, there may be less potential damage to the relationship if they disregard it. But how much more does it matter when someone you love seems to disregard you? What does that say about the relationship?
The level of closeness we feel (or would like to feel), the length of time we known someone, and the experiences we share all shape how important someone is to us and therefore also shape how important their responses can be.
So when it comes to our loved ones, how to we communicate both what we want and the importance of their response?
- Talk about what matters: What is it that you want? How would you like them to be part of it?
- Talk about why it matters to you: What is the importance? Does this tie back to your values or is it something you just want to try out?
- Talk about the relationship: Why are you sharing it with this person? What does their response mean to you?
- Talk about options: Are you completely set on what you are asking, or is there room to negotiate? What feedback do they have? How do you want to handle it if you can’t agree?
The goal with an approach like this is to make your intentions clear. If you are trying to be honest by expressing a need or making a request of someone close to you, letting them know what matters and why it matters is a way to show the intention behind what you are saying. It also gives the other person information about the impact they can have.
Knowing that the relationship may be the most important part of what you’re saying can help de-mystify why it can get so complicated with the ones we love. Start with the relationship, and see where it takes you.
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