Sorting communication problems in relationships

As a counsellor working in the Hastings area, I often find that the relationship problems which clients are reporting stem from poor communication. It may be that the communications are either avoided, forced or mis-read. The result can be confusion or anger for the other person – as well as our failing in what we wanted to convey.

A more conscious approach to communication focuses on listening as much as talking, and tries to encourage us to be mindful of the signals which we might be giving off, for example through our body language. Effective communications with people we care about need to give them enough emotional safety really to hear what is being said and then to respond from true understanding.

Dr Athena Staik suggests that there should be eight attributes for effective and conscious communication.

  • Know your purpose, what you need from the other, and what you want to say: so prepare what you want to say, be clear what you want to achieve. Possibly write it out first.


  • Know your body language and behaviours: we give away more than we think through those little bodily signals and gestures. Eye contact and an open posture matter.


  • Share your thoughts and feelings clearly: be brief, give examples, don’t ramble. Make requests, but don’t lecture.


  • Share thoughts and feelings slowly: the faster you are in your communications, the less clear you are likely to be. The result will then be confusion, at best.


  • Express painful emotions assertively: assertive doesn’t mean aggressive or critical; it means having the right to express your feelings and opinions and the right to be heard and respected.


  • Be conscious of timing: choose your moment so that you both have time to talk. Don’t launch into your communication in the heat of the moment, or just before one of you has to go to work.


  • Be aware of emotional feelings behind your communications: the words you use and the way that you say them can convey emotions and meanings which you didn’t intend. They can have both open and hidden messages. The underlying message which your listener hears can be very powerful, and possibly seem negative.


  • Keep the message positive and upbeat: an optimistic and reassuring tone, particularly at key moments in the conversation, can be important to achieving your aims. Don’t leave the other person feeling downbeat and pessimistic.

Above all, you want to create an atmosphere of empathy, respect and love in the way which your message is transmitted and received.

Qualified counsellors, whether working with individual clients or with couples, have the skills and experience to help you improve the conscious quality of communications in your relationship, and thus the quality of your relationship itself.

You can read more about Dr Staik’s approach to conscious communication at:


added at 12:02am on 18th February 2013

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