It seems that so much of what we hear or come across these days has at least two sides: from COVID information to politics to social justice issues. I don’t know about you, but I find the push-pull, angst-anger, doubt-fear it all induces to be incredibly exhausting and deflating. When there’s so much dissent, the idea that a middle path exists feels almost hard to believe. How can we have healthy relationships when there is such a sense of polarization lingering in the air?

As humans, we are created to be in community. The size and type of community that we thrive in varies from person to person, but we all need people. And to be in community we must learn to communicate. How can we effectively communicate with people – whether they are in our family, a tight-knit group of friends or are an acquaintance that views life from a different vantage point?

It seems that effective communication and open exchange of thoughts, feelings and ideas is more challenging lately. Using the GIVE skills can give you some guidance as you navigate these unchartered waters.

(Be) Gentle: Above all else, be kind! This includes the way you speak and act toward others…and toward yourself. If you’re ignoring your own self care and basic needs and being hyper-critical, it’s much more difficult to be nice and respectful to others. It’s common to feel an intensity when you want to share something you feel passionate about, however attacking others verbally (written or spoken), judging, eye-rolling or manipulating a conversation are all sure dire ways to drive any communication off the road. Being kind and gentle may be the most important tool in your toolbox!

(Act) Interested: Give your undivided attention to the other person, appear interested and really listen. Notice if you are planning your next sentence, rather than hearing the words they are speaking. Turn off the TV, put down your phone and actually lean into the conversation.

Validate: Demonstrate that you respect what they are saying. This can be difficult if you don’t agree, however you can validate their feelings and thoughts regardless of whether you see things the same way.

(Use an) Easy manner: Being light-hearted and even bringing some humor and levity to the conversation will balance the tone of your conversation. Even if you have a passionate stance on something or want to convey some science or “hard facts”, you can do so in a way that doesn’t feel pushy or intense. Smile and even laugh at yourself.

Take some time this week to notice your communication patterns and practice using these skills to strengthen the ties with those in your life. You both will benefit from it!