Empowered communication involves skills and approaches that facilitate the flow of ideas and the growth of social connections. It allows individuals to feel understood, respected, and wanted in the conversation. Some never learn healthy patterns of communication, either due to a mental health disorder or dysfunctional familial relationships. This article will discuss the importance of healthy communication and skillsets that can be developed in therapies like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
What Role Does Communication Play in Emotional Health?
Communication is a critical element of a person’s interpersonal effectiveness, a set of life skills taught in DBT.
DBT helps identify the reasons for a person’s dysfunctional behaviors to replace them with adaptive behaviors. Some people have emotional dysregulation, causing them to experience emotions more intensely than others when confronted with an invalidating environment. In response, they act out through aggression or self-sabotaging behaviors. An invalidating environment could be one in which a person feels personally slighted in some way, misunderstood, or rejected.
This can stem from issues with poor communication skills.
The Absence of Healthy Communication Skills
Typically used in treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD) and non-suicidal injury, life skills learned in DBT can also help those who struggle with communication as a result of neglect and trauma.
For instance, someone who grew up in a family with alcohol abuse may have been taught to keep family problems a secret. Their emotions may have been invalidated or discouraged as the household paid most of their attention to the individual with the addiction. Children who were emotionally abused — by gas lighting and manipulation — may have experienced confusion and anger. Without intervention, children may come up short in their ability to regulate their emotions and share thoughts with a level head.
What Is Empowered Communication?
Communication is the successful sharing of information between individuals through symbols, signs, or behavior. The key word here is successful. It’s not communication if the person on the other end of the conversation doesn’t accept or understand the message. Empowered communication takes this a step further to emphasize compassion and personal responsibility.
For example, Person B might comprehend what Person A has said, but that doesn’t say anything about the nature of the experience. The tone and body language used can significantly impact the connection, as well as how the receiver will retain and use the information. Disempowering patterns of communication can have short and long-term implications for relationships between family members, friends, and work colleagues.
The Emphasis on Compassion and Personal Responsibility
Empowered communication works to strengthen relationships through behaviors that allow others to feel like their perspectives are important. Being receptive while allowing others to make decisions as they see fit can facilitate a more human experience where people can get to know one another and cope with personal differences.
At its core, empowered communication flows from love and humility toward the human condition. People have certain needs, and adjusting accordingly rather than acting in aggression, is an effective way to meet those needs. It is also understood that there is usually less resistance toward sharing ideas or following through on a task when they are not feeling attacked.
When two people arrive at a conversation with the understanding that humans have a shared ability to do both altruistic and selfish things under the right circumstances, a neutral ground can be established, shifting away from negative feelings. By the same token, participants must take responsibility for unhealthy behaviors and satisfy mutual agreements.
Benefits of Empowering Communication
Expressing ideas with this approach can help a person:
- Improve relationships that matter
- Meet one’s needs and help others
- Overcome ingrained feelings of guilt, anger, and fear
- Build new, healthy relationships built on mutual trust and respect
- Recover from traumatic experiences and dysfunctional relationships
How Can Someone Start Practicing?
Anyone can start developing their ability to communicate with an orientation towards empowerment. The following are some actions that can be taken during a discussion:
Listen closely to what the person is saying, and ensure that your body language shows it. For instance, nod or smile occasionally, orient your body completely toward the person, and make eye contact. Wait until the person has finished their point before thinking of a response.
Let people know you appreciate their input and consider it. Be open to new ideas because there is usually more than one viewpoint on any given matter that holds some value. Avoid repeating cliches — which can seem disingenuous — or spewing harsh criticisms. The latter can cause someone to shut down entirely. Remember, this is a dialogue that goes more than one way. It is not necessary to share your opinion on every matter or point of disagreement.
#3. Show Respect
People are individuals with their own needs, desires, and opinions. Both sides of the conversation must be mindful of emotions that surface and how they impact their message. You can show respect by asking, “What do you think?” They may feel like their thoughts are valued and that they are contributing.
Effectively communicating thoughts and emotions is a part of the foundation of the human experience. These skills can be stunted in dysfunctional childhood homes troubled by addiction or mental health problems. Empowered communication can be learned with focused effort. West Coast Recovery Centers is a facility in Oceanside, California, that treats adults struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. We understand the impact that neglect and trauma can have on a growing mind and how that plays into a person’s interpersonal skills in adulthood. Our experienced team works to resolve negative emotions and establish more productive behaviors in intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization. Dialectical behavior therapy is one of many therapies available. We offer a communication-focused program that teaches clients about effective communication styles in a gender-responsive group. They are taught how to distinguish between disempowering and empowering methods of communication. To learn more, call (760) 492-6509 today.