Is your communication style improving or impairing your wellbeing? How we communicate impacts our health more than we think. The things we choose to say or not say make all the difference. From advocating for ourselves to relationships with others—- how we express ourselves is important.
We originally learn to communicate from who and how we were raised. Maybe we come from a background where nobody talks about their feelings, issues or concerns at all. This could’ve looked like parents or caregivers angry at one another and walking around not speaking rather than expressing how they feel. Or maybe it looked like wanting to ask an adult a question but feeling embarrassed or discouraged to use your voice. Maybe no one ever listened to understand, only to respond. Maybe no one talked and only yelled or fought. Maybe we saw communication start with talking and end with someone shutting down. Unhealthy communication can come in many forms.
In contrast, maybe we come from a background where self-expression, speaking up, and healthy dialogue were valued. This could’ve looked like seeing disagreements in our families reach common ground. Or maybe being encouraged to tell your friend at school you didn’t like something they did. Maybe we saw people share moments of vulnerability and trust. Maybe we saw people apologize and actively listen. Maybe we saw those around us loved and celebrated out loud. Maybe we saw healthy confidence expressed daily. However we grew up influences how we express ourselves individually and how we communicate to others presently.
Its unfortunate many of us never learned to properly communicate—our feelings, needs, thoughts or opinions. A lot of us have never learned to advocate for ourselves either. It may not be our fault that we were not taught but to be our healthiest happiest selves we have to learn this basic and crucial skill.
Not being taught how to speak up or about the value of speaking up about things is how we end up here. Holding back what we have to say is harmful to our health specifically our mental and emotional health. It is true that being unhealthy mentally or emotionally can physically manifest as well. When we deny ourselves the freedom and confidence to speak out freely we foster suppression and low self esteem. Per NBCnews, 85% of the population has low self-esteem and low confidence in themselves. That’s very sad. We all deserve the confidence to do, say, and feel what’s inside.
There are times we may want to say something but we’re too scared or too prideful or too angry or too unsure or too cautious. Too much of whatever it is that stop the words from leaving our mouth. It takes vulnerability and courage to take your thoughts and turn them into spoken words.
It takes practice. Better communication doesn’t happen over night. But, the benefits of starting now are immediate. Studies show speaking up to express ourselves and acting assertively are correlated with healthy self esteem. The more confident and secure we feel within ourselves the easier it becomes to communicate with others. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air or exhaling from a deep breath. There is a sense of relief we feel when we become more confident in what we have to say and what we feel.
Confidence gives us the courage to advocate for ourselves. This could mean speaking out against something, talking positively about ourselves, expressing our feelings to others, being firm about our boundaries, having an uncomfortable conversation, or taking a risk.
I know it may sound easier said than done but with practice it is possible to have a healthier relationship with self-expression. I’ve worked on my communication and self advocacy diligently to be where I am now. I still have areas to grow but I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Here are a few things that have helped me:
- Great communicators are great listeners
- Always listen to understand first
- Build self-confidence
- Celebrate and love on yourself more! (like everyday)
- Understand your own boundaries
- And enforce them
- Feeling negative means get it out
- Find an outlet
- If there’s something you feel toward someone, good or bad, tell them
- Holding what you have to say in is like holding in gas
- It hurts more the longer you keep it in
- The tough conversations get easier
- Keep having them
I hope some of those help you and maybe others too. Start speaking up and watch your mental and emotional health improve. Improving communication is a journey really not a destination. Reflecting back on how we’ve learned to communicate will teach us a lot about where we are and where we need to go. There’s always more to learn and apply. Just start.