Do you ever find yourself tiptoeing around a certain family member or work colleague? Have you resorted to texting when you don’t want to face a difficult conversation? When digital communication takes over real life communication it can be the cause of many relationship problems.
We’re social beings and connection to our fellow humans is important for our well-being. Our relationships to people - partners, children, mums, dads and friends - can be the source of much joy but also much pain. Having deep and satisfying relationships takes a lot of effort, time and searching. The upside is that on this journey you find out a lot about yourself and those close to you, and as a result your life will be richer and more rewarding.
The key to good relationships is honest and open communication. By that I mean there has to be face-to-face communication, not just relying on text, email and phone.
The digital age has created more and more ways for us to communicate with each other without talking with text and email being by far the most popular means of communication in the UK. Face-to-face communication is becoming less common. I believe this is leading to a breakdown in our ability to communicate effectively on an emotional level with the people we are close to.
Being in someone’s presence adds so many more dimensions to your relationship. When there are difficult times, texting or emailing can sometimes be a cop-out and can lead to misinterpretation. We often say things in emails or texts we'd never say face-to-face with someone because we can’t see the full impact our words are having.
Facing the person and talking honestly and sensitively can be painful, embarrassing or uncomfortable, but this may move the relationship on to a deeper more satisfying level, with more understanding of each other and of yourself.
If you come from a family where objections or dissatisfactions were not voiced openly but came through in passive aggressive ways, then this new way of communicating will feel scary and unfamiliar to you. It may feel wrong and jarring. The problem with passive aggression is that we may feel emotions of anger, sadness, annoyance but we push them down as they seem impossible to express. The result is our anger, frustration or whatever emotion we haven’t honestly expressed comes out in unexpected ways. Something perfectly mild may make you feel unwarranted amounts of anger that’s disproportionate compared to the misdemeanour. This confuses relationships - people won't understand you and an atmosphere develops. People start walking on egg-shells so as not to upset each other. Sound familiar?
What if it’s you that’s being passive aggressive? You might need help to figure out what the underlying problem is and what you’re ultimately scared of if you do communicate honestly. Therapy can help you identify and change the way you communicate. Many patterns of passive aggressive behaviour start in childhood, maybe you had a domineering parent and this was your only way to have any power in the relationship, or maybe that was just the way your family operated. Counselling can help clients understand how at the time this defensive behaviour helped them, and how now they’re older a more honest and open communication response will make life easier and less complicated.
What ever the underlying issues, the key to good relationships is having those difficult conversations that allow you to breakthrough into a deeper, more honest and rewarding relationship.
So next time you start tapping out a message on your smartphone, maybe think again and opt for a good old fashioned chat over a cup of tea!
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