It can be uncomfortable—even difficult, but health experts say when it comes to conflict--communication is key. “I think a lot of times conflict comes from not communicating well, or from reading other people’s minds. So, I think, they think, so we have inner battles that the other person isn’t even aware of,” explained Dr. Jacqueline Hidalgo, a clinical psychologist with Lee Health.
There are three different ways to communicate. “There’s aggressive communication, where I yell, scream, accuse, insult, get loud. There’s passive communication where I don’t talk much. I don’t say what I mean; I kind of keep it to myself and I just kind of internalize it. Then there’s assertive communication, which is the one I recommend,” said Dr. Hidalgo.
Assertive communication is using a calm tone and direct language to explain how you feel. Put simply, say what you mean and mean what you say. “A lot of the times I tell my patients, let’s think about this. Do you feel like you expressed yourself the right way, or have you asked this person if that’s what they meant,” she said.
Before you respond to confrontation, take a couple of deep breaths and count to ten. “I think when people are talking, and they are accusing someone of things, we start getting defensive, and we really stop listening to understand, we just start listening to respond,” said Dr. Hidalgo.
In a stressful situation, it’s easy to let your emotions take over. But taking time before you respond can help you better communicate assertively while respecting others. “I think that if we use some reasoning, and we just give ourselves some time for our emotions not to take over then that will help us communicate better,” she said.
Developing healthy communication skills can improve your health and relationships.