Healthy vs Unhealthy Communication

Communication is a big part of a relationship. Without being able to talk to each other, even what seems like the best marriage can fall apart. Sometimes, people don’t communicate (they shut down) or communicate too much (won’t shut up). In both instances, it could be a ploy to control their partner’s response. Maybe shutting down in hopes that your partner will leave you alone. Or pushing the issue hoping to get an immediate response. In both cases, there is a need to be heard- one in showing that you don’t want to talk about it and the other in pursuing an answer. Expressing your needs are important. Here are a few considerations to help you get what you want out of your relationship in a more effective way.

So, let’s say that you guys are having a disagreement. One of you needs space- to calm down, to avoid the situation, or to process before responding. On the other hand, one of you needs resolution NOW! You want to hash it out and come to a definite solution. In both cases, the following unhealthy ways of communicating may apply-

Unhealthy Communication:

Trying to control your partner-

You can’t make them do anything unless they want to. Trying to force your opinion on them is not a good practice! Trying to “make” them to talk by blocking the door or pulling their arm is also uncalled for. If they want to talk, they will. If they want to change, they will. And If they don’t want to, they won’t. That’s just the way it is.

Trying to bully your partner-

You should not try to intimidate them to get what you want. Example: If I threaten divorce, they will do what I want. This is not right! Why give an empty threat just to make someone give in? And many times, the “bully” knows that their partner has a fear of being alone- so they use this manipulative tactic continuously to get their way.

Trying to harass your partner-

In this case, you continue to push the issue. Nagging doesn’t get your point across- oftentimes, it just makes your partner tune out or respond in a harsh or hurtful way. What I mean by this is the harder you push, either they push back or they don’t push at all. This is typically based on their personality. In any case, nagging is annoying and you should try a healthier method to get what you want.

Trying to dominate your partner-

Yelling or belittling your partner can make them fearful of you. They are afraid of what you’re going to say next that makes them feel like unworthy or inadequate. And why would you want your partner to hurt? On the other hand, they may lose respect for you. Your tone, your harshness, your negative approach is a definite turn off. Over time, they don’t even care what you have to say. Hmmmm… So you wonder why their not listening?


What you say is not always what is heard.

This is when you say something and you have to double back. You end up saying “I didn’t mean it that way,” but usually it’s too late. Your partner is already hurt or angry due to your inability to communicate your thoughts effectively.

What you mean is not always what you say.

Sometimes we just say what comes to mind without actually thinking about whether our message is clear.

What they feel is a result of their interpretation of what you said and how you said it.

Your tone is a key element to how what you say is interpreted. If you are yelling, even though you have a valid point, what you are trying to express may not be heard or accepted.

The main thing is to THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK! What is your intention? Are you trying to allow them the opportunity to meet your needs OR are you trying to manipulate them into doing what you want? Learn how to communicate effectively.

Healthy Communication:

  • Ask for clarity when you don’t understand.
  • Focus on what is said, not what you are going to say next.
  • Listen for what is meant, not just what you heard.
  • Don’t assume you know what they feel.
  • Reflect what you heard and your interpretation.
  • Don’t interrupt with your own comeback. Pay attention and don’t talk over them.
  • Respond constructively in a way that both of you feel heard and supported.

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