Communication – The Bridge That Connects Us
Communication is a cornerstone of the human experience. It is what connects one person’s mind to the other. It allows us to share our innermost thoughts and feelings with another human being. Communication is how we express what we like, want, and need. It persuades, motivates, inspires, and encourages. In many ways, it is the driving force behind human relationships.
There are two avenues we can travel when it comes to how we choose to communicate with others. We can engage in healthy communication or unhealthy communication. The choice is up to us. This choice will largely dictate the quality of our lives and determine how effective we are in getting our needs met. It will also greatly impact how others perceive us and whether or not they enjoy our company.
If we choose to communicate in a positive and respectful way with others, we will have enriching and rewarding relationships. If we choose to implement toxic communication strategies; we are likely to be confronted with conflict, chaos, stressful situations, and broken relationships on a regular basis.
Addiction Negatively Impacts the Way We Communicate
Engaging in healthy communication with others isn’t always easy – especially after spending so long being unhealthy. You may not think that an addiction to drugs or alcohol affects how you communicate with others, but it does.
Take a moment to reflect on how you may have communicated with others when you were battling the disease of addiction:
- Did you yell at others when you didn’t get your way?
- Did you call people names?
- Did you manipulate others to get your needs met?
- Did you use sarcasm as a way to deflect personal responsibility?
- Did you express hostile body language?
Chances are, you exhibited at least one of these unhealthy communication strategies while you were drinking or taking drugs. Now that you have gotten sober, it might take you some time to learn how to practice healthy communication in your daily life. That’s okay. Remember, recovery is a process.
Let’s take a moment to examine the difference between healthy communication and unhealthy communication. We’ll talk about how each of these approaches affects the relationships you have with the important people in your life.
What is Healthy Communication?
Healthy communication is the way to go when it comes to how you want to engage the world around you. You are much more likely to earn the respect of others and enjoy pleasant and fulfilling interactions when you apply positive communication strategies in your relationships.
Ideally, healthy communication involves mutual respect among those who are in communication with one another. Of course, you cannot control how other people are going to treat you. But, you can decide how you are going to treat others. This starts with the way you communicate.
Here are some of the characteristics of healthy communication:
- Using a conversational tone
- Active listening
- Appropriate language (no swearing or vulgarity)
- Acceptance of the other person’s right to express themselves
- Respectful body language
- Willingness to compromise
- Willingness to acknowledge wrongdoing
- Using “I” statements rather than “you” statements (to avoid blaming)
- Providing positive feedback
It is true that healthy communication is vital to a romantic relationship. (In fact, a lack of communication between partners is often grounds for divorce). But, you should know that healthy communication affects every relationship you have in your life.
Whether it is your boss or co-worker, your children, family members, or friends – it is important to make the effort to learn how to effectively communicate.
Examples of Unhealthy Communication
To better understand what healthy communication IS, it might help to identify what it IS NOT. Here are a few examples of unhealthy communication that you want to avoid:
- Name-calling and other forms of verbal abuse
- Waiting for your turn to talk, rather than listening
- Blaming, shaming, or judging
- Disrespectful language
- Using aggressive nonverbal communication (like finger-pointing)
- Being sarcastic
- Refusing to apologize
- Refusing to compromise
Unhealthy communication is unproductive. It creates conflict, chaos, and unnecessary drama. And, it just doesn’t feel good.
Recovery Will Make You A Better Communicator
Getting sober and working a program of recovery is the first step toward making yourself a better communicator. You are less likely to be unhealthy in all aspects of your life when you are living a sober lifestyle – this includes how you communicate.
Keep in mind that learning to effectively communicate takes time and practice. Generally; most people struggle with communication – even those who have never had an addiction to drugs or alcohol. If you experience difficulty with expressing your thoughts or feelings in a respectful or effective way, not to worry.
Recognizing that this area of your life requires self-improvement is the step in the right direction. Set a goal to start working on one communication strategy at a time. For example, if you are prone to yelling, be mindful of this. Make a conscious decision to practice using a conversational tone until you have mastered the art of the so-called “inside voice.”
Remember that you don’t have to do recovery alone. If you feel like unhealthy communication is a real problem for you, talk to your sponsor or a mentor about it and get the support you need to make changes in this area of your life.
As always, be patient with yourself during your recovery process. More will be revealed in its right timing. As you continue to grow and get healthier, so will your communication techniques.