Kate Campbell, PhD, LMFT
Communicating with Intention: 6 Tips for creating connection in relationships
You may be asking yourself, is a blog about communication relevant to me? And the answer is yes! Communication is important in every single relationship, and in my experience is hands down the biggest presenting problem clients bring to therapy. Whether in romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, friendships, or professional relationships; frustration regarding lack of communication is pervasive across the board.
There are many reasons that people struggle with good communication. It would be impossible here to discuss all the factors that make communication challenging, as relationships are each different and very complex. However, I have noticed that regardless of the type of relationship, when people are mindful of how they are approaching conversations and are able to enter them clear about their intentions, relationships tend to be strengthened.
When I talk about intention here, I am describing a two-way process. The intention is to be aware of the aim or purpose behind our words, and also the impact of those words on our relationships. Our intention is important to talk about because it has organizing power. It dictates how we communicate and how we communicate impacts our relationships. Not many of us enter conversations truly aware of how our communication will impact our relationships. Communicating with intention is being aware of the purpose and implication of what you are about to say.
A lot of times we enter conversations focused on our own personal goals, or we approach conversations from a place of thinking we are “right” which keeps us defensive and thus not in line with our intention. Entering conversations in this way can damage our relationships, and limits our potential for growth. It’s easy to fall into this way of communicating when we are frustrated, disappointed, tired, or pressed for time. However, taking the time to communicate intentionally will save you time and energy in the future.
When we are able to enter conversations clear about our purpose it allows for connection rather than disconnection. When we come into conversations unaware of our aim, and unaware of how we will impact the relationship, we do and say things that can create dissension. Think about it. Would you feel connected to someone if they approached you with defensiveness? In the same way, would you feel more connected if someone approached you respectfully, calmly, and in a way that made sense to you?
The 6 tips presented here will help you cultivate connection and help you have more fulfilling and satisfying conversations with your loved ones, colleagues, and friends.
Tip 1: Use emotions as a signal to think things over
Often times communication goes south when we come from a place of heightened emotion. When we feel the emotion we tend to react and start to defend ourselves. This is a surefire way to lose our intention. Instead, when someone says something to you that you find insensitive or insulting, don’t react at the moment. Instead, take a deep breath and take a break from the conversation. In this break, you are able to realign with your intention and are able to return to the conversation from a position of respect and clarity, rather than anger and defensiveness. Can you see how this is already a more honoring experience?
Tip 2: Get clear on your intention
In the space away from the conversation, you are able to ask yourself some very valuable questions. What is the purpose of what you are wanting to say? What is the need or value that is important to communicate? Is there a more honoring way of saying it? What is the impact of what I want to say on the relationship? These are just a few questions we can ask ourselves to realign with our intention and get clear about what is important for you to communicate. It’s important to ask ourselves these questions once the emotion has subsided.
Tip 3: Know your audience
Different people communicate in different ways. If we want others to hear us and validate what is important to us, we have to communicate with them in a way that makes sense for them. I had a boss once who preferred to communicate via email. While this was not my preferred means of communication, I found that she was a lot more receptive to my ideas and suggestions when they were emailed to her, rather than when they were presented to her face to face. While I preferred face-to-face conversations, emailing her was a way for me to get my opinions heard, while also respecting how she preferred to receive information. If I continued doing what was best for me, (aka face-to-face conversations) it would have left both of us feeling frustrated, as my opinions would not be heard and she would feel disrespected. When I figured out what worked for both of us, it ultimately strengthened our relationship.
Tip 4: Always come from a place of respect and empathy
Respect and empathy are the most important aspects of communication. When we remind ourselves to be respectful and think about the other person's perspective rather than just our own, we allow ourselves to connect with people in a different way. When we are respectful and empathic we send a very clear message that we are considering the other person’s view rather than just our own. This typically causes the person we are communicating with to be more receptive to what we have to say.
Tip 5: Listen openly
Good communication is a two-way process. It involves sharing your thoughts and opinions in a meaningful way, but it also means listening openly as well. When we enter a conversation only interested in getting our point across, we are missing opportunities for understanding and connection. When we really listen, rather than just focusing on what we are going to say next, we allow ourselves to be in the moment and keeps us flexible. Perhaps our intention may change as we listen to the other, and that’s perfectly okay! I can’t emphasize enough that this is a two-way process.
Tip 6: Be detached from the outcome
Communicating with intention is a way to respect yourself and your relationship, but it doesn’t automatically mean that the other person will agree with your perspective. Being detached from the outcome means being confident that you entered the conversation in a way that was honoring, regardless of the other person’s position. Not being invested in the outcome allows you to stay connected to your intention and also allows you to be flexible and open to suggestions. It’s not about being right, it's about creating connection.
More likely than not, if you are able to practice these tips you will be able to connect with the people around you in a more meaningful way. In the words of Dan Oswald, “Communication must be HOT. That’s Honest, Open and Two-way ”, try it out, the results may astound you.
For communication support in individual therapy or couples therapy, call Dr. Kate Campbell at 954-391-5305. Dr. Kate provides pre-marital counseling, marriage therapy, and couples counseling in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.