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    Relationships Reads: Compassionate Vs. Corrosive Communication

    7 Minute Read

    We’ve talked self-care, self-love, self-awareness—simply put, we might be a little self-obsessed.

    I joke, I joke. In all seriousness, I spend so much time and effort detailing concepts related to the individual self because I firmly believe that the majority of our most pressing problems and concerns, setbacks and perceived shortcomings, stem from the understanding of self we’ve cultivated, or not cultivated, over the course of our lifetime. Simply put, almost any problem can be resolved with a reframing of the self.

    Our relationships with others are a direct reflection of the relationships we have with ourselves.

    Still, we don’t live in a vacuum; it’s not all about us as individuals. We all have relationships in our lives that seriously impact our state of mind and quality of life. We have mothers and fathers, friends and coworkers, romantic partners and exes (some of whom we would rather forget). And many of my client sessions resolve around finding ways to improve existing connections and to make peace with the past.

    Basically, life is about relationships just as much as it’s about the self, and I think it’s time we dive into how to effectively manage healthy relationships with others.

    Communication typically falls into one of two categories: corrosive or compassionate.

    Let’s Get REAL About “Relationship Goals.”

    A relationship is a bond or a link between two individual selves. That means that in order to have a thriving and healthy relationship with another human being, we must have a thriving and healthy relationship with ourselves. So, what makes any relationship strong? Communication. If you’re one of my longtime readers, you’re already a pro at self-awareness. You know yourself, inside-out! When it comes to building successful relationships, it’s about being able to communicate oneself effectively to the other party.

    From this place of self-knowing, it’s then time to let your partner know who you are and what you need, and that comes down to communication habits.

    What Is Corrosive Communication?

    Corrosive communication is founded in attacking or damaging language. At its worst, corrosive communication can be a form of verbal or emotional abuse in which one partner lashes out at the other with venom and vitriol. With corrosive communication, the end result is rarely mutual benefit and understanding. The main goal is to posit each exchange as a battle of wills, a competition to be won or lost. In reality, no one wins with corrosive communication.

    Corrosive communication is about wounding others because we are wounded. Compassionate communication is about vulnerability and coming together.

    What Is Compassionate Communication?

    On the flip side, we have compassionate communication. To communicate compassionately means to speak with love and understanding. Even when disagreements or conflicts arise, the goal is never to “win” or come out on top, but to resolve the problem for the mutual benefit of both people. A person who communicates compassionately has high levels of emotional intelligence and empathy. Because they have awareness of their own strengths, weaknesses, and needs as an individual, they are sensitive to the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of their partner and operate with those in mind.

    To have compassion is to operate from a place of pure love.

    It Takes Two to Tango

    Corrosive communication is damaging because it is extremely selfish and aggressive in nature, and selfishness won’t take any relationship to a healthy place. A relationship is a connection between two people, and as such, the needs of both parties must be acknowledged with respect and met with openness. Those who communicate corrosively live their lives going, “me, me, me!”

    To have compassion is to operate from a place of pure love.

    It is important—in fact, it’s critical—to maintain a strong sense of self and personal prioritization even within a relationship, but this is not a free-pass to make it all about yourself. Remember that your partner has equal right to be seen, heard, respected, and uplifted, and your relationship will go far.

    What to Do

    Now that we have an understanding of healthy communication, it’s time to learn some practical ways to implement! Below, find 5 helpful tips on how to compassionately communicate with your partner:

    1. Listen to Understand, Not to Respond.

    Effective communication starts with listening. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, hear them out. Do not interrupt or cut them off to get your own point across. Be patient and suspend your judgement while they speak. When someone shares their feelings, they share a form of intimacy; they are being vulnerable enough to let you know how they really feel. Honor that vulnerability by being respectful enough to listen with an open heart and mind. Before you respond, make an honest effort to digest what they’ve expressed, even if you disagree. Trying to see things from the other person’s perspective goes a long way to effective and loving communication.

    2. Maintain Open Body Language.

    Communication is physical just as much as verbal. When your partner is sharing his or her thoughts and feelings, maintain an open body language. Make an active effort to relax your muscles and the tension in your body. Uncross your arms, unclench your jaw, and turn your body to face your partner. This body positioning indicates openness and invites your partner to speak freely without anxiety or apprehension of rejection or criticism.

    Corrosive communication is about wounding others because we are wounded. Compassionate communication is about vulnerability and coming together.

    3. Ask Questions

    Communication is a two-person job; it’s an exchange of thoughts, feelings, and emotions between two people. This means it is important to be an active participant in the conversation. If your partner expresses something you don’t understand, ask questions. Not only does this increase your understanding, but it helps your partner to feel heard and supported through your demonstration of genuine interest and concern. Be present and invested in your conversations and they will be fruitful.

    4. Use Affirming Language

    As often as possible, use affirming language to build your partner up. Even if the two of you are in disagreement about something, choose words that reaffirm your partner’s right to have their own opinion and feel heard. “I hear what you’re saying,” “I didn’t know you felt that way,” “I can imagine how that must make you feel,” “How do you think we can come to a mutual understanding on this?” Phrases like these show your investment in a resolution that works for both you and your partner and make for a more productive conversation.

    5. Volunteer Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions.

    Talking to someone who won’t open up is worse than talking to a brick wall. It’s frustrating and inconsiderate to the person who is making an effort to be an active participant in the relationship. Make sure that you are not closed off to your partner or expecting them to read your mind. Offer up your thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that communication can be effective.

    If you don’t feel quite ready to open up, or you need some time to digest your feelings before speaking, communicate that need to your partner. A simple, “I want to resolve this, but I just need some time to think it over” goes a long way in keeping the lines of communication open. Stoicism does no one any good, so push past the initial discomfort of vulnerability to reach an understanding based in love.

    Dr. Logan Jones

    Dr. Logan Jones is a Psychologist and Founder of Clarity Therapy. Sign up for his free 30 Days of Gratitude email series and follow him on Instagram at @drloganjones.
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    How to Break a Trauma Bond, According to a Licensed Therapist

    Trauma bonds are complicated- both psychologically and biologically. You do not get into them by “choice” and you do not stay stuck in them by choice. Getting appropriate therapy and connecting to safe support is a crucial aspect of recovering from trauma bonds. In this post we’ll explore how to break a trauma bond and the actions you can take to start healing.

    What is a Trauma Bond and How does it Affect you?

    A trauma bond is a harmful connection that forms between two people, often a victim and a perpetrator. The aftermath of even just one abuse cycle is so much shame and self-blame. Eventually, you fear being left more than being harmed. But the hopeful truth is – you can leave. Trauma bonds are not impossible cages to escape from. With the help of safe and trusted care, you can learn to leave your abuser behind for good.

    Did this article resonate with you?

    If so, our therapists may be a good fit. We invite you to share your preferences on our therapist matching questionnaire so that we can provide you with a personalized recommendation.


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