The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?”.
(Brené Brown).

There’s a common saying that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I beg to differ. In my perspective, relationships thrive on personal time and consistent communication. Think about the people in your life with whom you feel closest—chances are, you engage in regular communication with them. On the flip side, consider those you “used to know” or were close to at one point. The diminishing of those relationships often boils down to a lack of ongoing communication.

Each conversation we have presents an opportunity to either strengthen or weaken a relationship. The words we choose, our tone, and even non-verbal cues like body language play pivotal roles in nurturing or, conversely, poisoning a relationship. Communication is the essence of a relationship.

No one person holds control over a communication interaction; it’s a collaborative process. Every conversation we engage in shapes who we are, influencing our growth and development. The knowledge we gain from these exchanges contributes to our self-evaluation and shapes our values. Effective communication is a vital aspect of human connection. While we crave human contact, we also cherish being recognized and respected as individuals.

Improving communication skills starts with learning to listen. Often, when we listen, we’re formulating our response rather than truly absorbing the speaker’s tone, body language, and words. Many times, we interrupt before someone finishes their sentence or rush to provide a solution. Given that the average person speaks 115-130 words per minute, while the brain processes 500 words in the same time frame, it’s no wonder we tend to focus on our own thoughts. Choosing to truly listen is a conscious decision that fosters meaningful conversations.

The art of listening, sometimes known as empathetic or mindful listening, involves a genuine desire to understand the other person. It requires focus, eye contact, and active engagement. Encouraging dialogue through questions and reflecting on the speaker’s words helps uncover the true meaning behind the communication. Paraphrasing and adding questions or comments contributes to the depth of communication and strengthens the relationship.

Differences of opinion are inevitable, but before letting them derail a conversation or relationship, it’s crucial to handle them with respect. Acknowledging opposing viewpoints without necessarily agreeing is key. Phrases like “I hear you, but I have a different opinion” or “I understand your perspective, and I feel that…” convey a respectful acknowledgment of differences without forcing either party to accept the other’s viewpoint.

Building relationships demands patience, trust, and the ability to engage in open, honest communication. It’s an ongoing process, and as we communicate with others, everyone involved in the dialogue undergoes growth and change. The ultimate goal should be to encourage each other to become the best versions of ourselves through positive and constructive communication.