Communication with a Purpose

Sarah Lynn, M.A. Advocates for Human Potential, Inc.

Sarah Lynn, M.A., Senior Writer,
Advocates for Human Potential, Inc.

Healthy, effective communication is what nourishes connection, empathy, and support. Communicating effectively is also a vital way you can embody personal responsibility and self-advocacy—two of WRAP’s key concepts. You and I are each responsible for effectively reaching out to others so we can receive what we need, want, and deserve to support our wellness and recovery. Effective communication is also critical in developing or updating your WRAP Crisis Plan; if we want others to support us in the ways we want and need, we have to make our desires and choices clear so they know what to do.

I’m proud that I’m growing in my ability to communicate my needs and ask for help. I grew up in a family where asking for help was viewed as a weakness; we hid our emotional needs no matter what. It has taken time and a whole lot of work to fully embrace the fact that the vulnerability it takes to ask others for help is a powerful strength, not a weakness. It’s also the only way for others to truly understand the best ways to help us recover from challenges and regain a state of wellness. This is where effective communication comes into play.

Expressing yourself honestly and clearly helps create shared understanding, empathy, and connection. It also allows you to express your wants and needs and set healthy boundaries—all important aspects of maintaining wellness.

Expressing yourself honestly and clearly helps create shared understanding, empathy, and connection. It also allows you to express your wants and needs and set healthy boundaries—all important aspects of maintaining wellness.

The question is How can you nurture effective communication in all your relationships? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
  • Practice active listening—listen to understand, not to come up with a reply.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about how your words might impact them.
  • Be clear when expressing your boundaries and needs.
  • Encourage rather than discourage. For example, “I believe you can…”
  • Be honest and admit your mistakes.
  • Acknowledge the thoughts, ideas, or feelings of the other person.
  • Use “I” statements, which help you share what you think or feel without sounding like you are blaming or attacking. These statements communicate your preferences and keep you responsible for your part in the exchange. It’s the difference between “You never listen to me” and “I feel like you aren’t listening to me, and it makes me feel unappreciated.” The “I” statement can make the other person less defensive and effectively communicate how you are feeling.
  • Invite the other person to join you in addressing the issue together.
  • Remember that being vulnerable and honestly communicating your thoughts, needs, and feelings is brave and shows trust.

A great resource for families who are working on improving their communication is Family WRAP. It has sections about setting limits, establishing boundaries, and methods for maintaining good family communication. It’s never too late—or too early—to learn how to communicate more effectively.

How do you work to improve your communication with the people in your life? How do you communicate your needs? Share your tips on our Facebook page.

Alternatives Conference 2017: Building Healing Communities Together

The National Empowerment Center, a National Consumer Technical Assistance Center, will be hosting the Alternatives Conference 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts, from Friday evening, August 18, through Monday, August 21, 2017. Are you planning to attend? Check out the conference website for more details and to register: http://www.power2u.org/alternatives-2017/. If you plan to be there, let us know! Be sure to come find WRAP and Recovery Books, the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery, and Doors to Wellbeing in the conference exhibit hall. We would love to see you!

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