Why We Need to Communicate - Now

While having a conversation about romance with one of my close friends, as a regular twenty-something-year-old does, there came a point when I became absolutely frustrated.

My friend had recently kind-of-but-not-really had relations with this girl he was friends with, and there was ambiguity as to what the actual goal was with these relations. I became puzzled.

“So,” I asked. “Does she want to date or does she want something else?” My friend didn’t know, so I pressed, “Why don’t you ask her?”

“Ask her? What is this, middle school? That’s so weird.”

Here is where I get frustrated.

First of all, what kind of middle schooler do you know that actually asks people how they feel? Last time I checked, middle school me liked Naruto and avoided talking about how I was feeling like the plague.

Second of all, I have absolute qualms with the way every single generation has handled open and honest communication. People who are casually dating play games to get what they want. No one discusses how they negatively feel within a relationship, so their issues pile on until they fill to the brim and the couple overflows with resentment. When people have to express their needs, they merely want the other person to read their mind and expect them to be met. When people are intimate, they don’t tell the other person what they want, nor does the other person check in to see if the other person likes it.

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Why not instead just date and communicate the intentions and feelings one has towards the other? Why not just calmly explain that you want your significant other to stop hurting your feelings, whether they mean to or not? Why not ask for what you need or want? Why not have an open discussion of relations after the experience to see what could be done better or what could happen again in the future?

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I firmly believe that if we do not address the issues we have in communication and work hard to improve them, there are worldly and heinous ramifications.

 

On an individualistic level, the people I find myself surrounded by are filled with disdain at how little people communicate. It isn’t the norm to communicate, so people bottle up their negative (and positive!) sentiments. This bottling up of feelings can only happen so often until the individual loses sight of what makes them human. Any person who has barred themselves from saying how they really feel know that it is a miserable existence.

Between individuals, the main source of alarm is a lack of communication. When one person starts avoiding another, or when awkward silences begin replacing previously abundant conversations, it’s a huge roadblock to the health of the relationship. This goes for platonic, familial, romantic, and sexual relationships alike. In fact, one of my friends had an outburst that, “People never say what they want! They just skirt around the truth, but never actually say how they feel and continue to play games with each other.” Before relationships can even exist, individuals avidly avoid communication out of fear and shame about what they want to communicate.

On a community level, there is shame in being vulnerable with one another. People often are uncomfortable around active displays of vulnerability, even with peers they know personally, because communication isn’t practiced. Institutions lack access to communication for those who attend them to improve the way the institution is run.

All of these levels sum up to a systemic problem with communication. Because we refuse to communicate and shame those who do, there is a mental health decline. Rape culture is exacerbated, as people claim that giving and asking for consent is a hard task to accomplish. The US government consists of people who do not effectively communicate their thoughts to one another so no work gets done and no education is to be had, thus creating a seemingly total polar division between parties.

The lack of communication is absolutely chaotic.

 

We are so scared of communication that we fail to fear the consequences of not communicating. So what can we do about?

 

Easy. Communicate.

 

With a few rules.

  1. It has to be honest.
  2. It has to be respectful— i.e., if you’re angry with someone, it can be hard to mitigate that frustration, but it’s important to calmly and maturely explain why you’re feeling the way you do. It isn’t communication if it is filled with contempt.
  3. It has to have the intention of improving a situation or finding a solution to a problem.
  4. It has to be the right timing— i.e., don’t bring up your frustrations with someone publicly, as this can be a means of humiliating them.
  5. It has to be empathetic.
  6. It has to have the expectation that you will allow the other person to communicate back at you, so you have to listen to them when it is their turn to speak to your thoughts.

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While it can be hard to muster the courage to effectively communicate, especially when you fear the outcome of the communication (rejection, failure to come to a solution, breaking up with someone, bringing up vulnerable topics, etc.), it is essential. If your communication is what ends your relationship with someone, then the relationship was doomed regardless.

But let’s look at the positive side of things.

Individually, it’s no wonder that communication skills improve when mental health improves. I believe it’s a constant loop: when you communicate, you feel better. When you feel better, your mental health improves. So your brain says, “Huh! The last time I communicated, I felt better, so I’m going to do that again.” And so it goes. You practice communication over and over again as you continuously feel better and get better at it every single time. It just makes sense. So… if your emotional state improves as you continue to communicate, that opens a whole world of possibility. Like the book, Emotions Revealed, says, “Emotions determine our quality of life.” This is a positive feedback loop that is… positive! This allows for you to be more aware of how to work through your emotions, more conscious of your actions, more sensitive to others’ feelings, and more conscientious in how you respond to the emotions of others.

This brings me to talk about responding to others’ instances of communication, particularly between significant others. It is scientifically proven that relationships exponentially improve when partners consistently communicate in the bedroom. While some people find that asking for consent is awkward, the data proves the opposite. It actually improves satisfaction between both parties. It also opens doors for a more grey area. While there is a concept that consent only looks like an enthusiastic and continuous, “Yes!”, in reality it is sometimes more of a, “Well, I’ve never really done this before, but I’m willing to try it and I’ll tell you if I want you to stop!” Talking about the experience as it is occurring allows for exploration for both parties. Furthermore, in romantic relationships, significant others regularly and effectively communicating with each other improves satisfaction in the relationship tremendously.

Thus, if individuals communicated their feelings to others within their communities, they could perhaps breathe a collective sigh of relief. This isn’t merely a nice sentiment; there is evidence to support it. This meta-analysis (meaning a study compiling hundreds of other studies) showed a strong positive correlation between social support and mental health. Consistently communicating to those around you is seen to improve one’s mental health, and thus the health of the community as a whole. Social support and communication overlap nearly completely.

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The benefits of communication are overwhelming. Time and time again, research proves that communication not only reaps one-time positive results but positive results that breed more positive results. So next time you encounter a new dating experience and you are unsure what your companion wants, I dare you to just… ask. And tell them how you feel. It is so, so worth it.

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