“Communication is key.” It’s a phrase we've all heard time and time again, but what does it really mean? Well, according to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, communication is defined as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” Seems straight forward, right? Well, as I’ve gotten older and started entering the adult world, this simple phrase has gotten me thinking about what the most important element of communication is. Finally, after much thought and deliberation, I believe that I have come to a conclusion: it’s about the meaning behind our words.
Don’t get me wrong, it's still important to respond in a reasonable amount of time to avoid coming off as rude or distant, but answering as quickly as possible just so that you can say you responded does not mean nearly as much as taking the time to come up with an honest response based off what has been shared by the other person. This is because words are powerful. Whether you realize it or not, I can assure you that there have been moments in your life in which you spent some time thinking about someone else’s words — what you wish they had said or what you want them to say in the future. This is especially true in relationships.
I’m sure we've all tried, at one point or another, to avoid answering someone right away in fear of seeming too eager, or maybe we’ve just been told to wait for the other person to text first so that we don’t come off as “obsessed." Let me just say that these mindsets are absolutely ridiculous. If you like someone, let them know! We all know that guys aren’t always the most observant beings on the planet, so don’t feel bad if you have to be the one to ask questions or lead a conversation.
But anyway, let’s say that things are going great. You guys talk every day, you’re both quick to respond, everything seems perfect. First of all, let me just start by saying that I'm super happy for you, but more importantly, I would encourage you to take a minute to look at what you’re really saying:
“Nice, how’s everything?”
Is this a conversation? I mean yes, okay. You’re asking questions and receiving answers, so I guess you could call it a dialogue, but is that really all that we're going for? Where’s the deeper meaning? I couldn't tell you anything about how either of these people are feeling in this scenario. I cannot tell you the number of conversations in which someone has asked me “How are you?” and I have simply responded with “Fine, thanks.” And, after way too much time spent sitting on my bed, eating Twizzlers, and rereading every single conversation I’ve ever had with a guy and wondering why he doesn’t seem to like me anymore, I’ve determined that this is the reason why.
The word “fine” is by far the dumbest word in the English dictionary. A strong claim, I know, but hear me out. According to Miriam-Webster, “fine” is defined as “alright or healthy.” Ladies, I am quite saddened to know that the only thing we’ve got going for us is the fact that our lives are not currently a complete disaster. But even more so than that, I know that nine times out of 10 we aren’t fine, and that’s okay. We say that we're fine as an easy way out and in response to others for two main reasons:
- To find a quick end to a conversation (understandable).
- In hopes that by trying to come off as “normal,” the conversation will continue (not understandable).
Let’s discuss number two, shall we? This is not acceptable. I know, I know that may seem harsh, but I promise I’m writing this article with good intentions and based on personal experience. We have to be unafraid to honestly articulate our feelings to one another as individuals. And although this can be difficult, it's the only way relationships can grow and develop. This is directly due to honesty.
Everyone that I've spoken to in my life can agree with me when it comes to the importance of honesty. We all want someone who is candid with us so that we can address any issues and know that both parties can be comfortable in the relationship, whether that’s personal or professional. So, if that’s true, why do we continue to breeze over our emotions and act like they aren’t worth discussing? Don’t say you’re fine just because it's easy, because deep down you wouldn’t want someone else to say that to you.
Please know that I'm not telling you to begin drafting three paragraph essays in your notes app to send to your lover about how you're spiraling out of control because you ran out of granola yesterday (although, same here). Instead, start small. If you leave this article with anything, I hope that it's with this task. Take two minutes and ask someone about their day: What was the best part of their day? Is there anything they're looking forward to doing this week? How’s work been lately? And try your best to get an honest answer. If they're being stubborn and don’t feel like sharing, then answer your own question and lead by example. I promise you they will do the same if they genuinely care about the conversation. Do this for however long and with whoever you want to and continue doing it. Make it a habit, and in doing so I promise you that you’ll start noticing a difference. Words are powerful. Use them.