“Real Communication Happens When People Feel Safe” is a quote by Ken Blanchard. In this quote he captures the essence of honest authentic communication. Indeed when we are comfortable and feel accepted it becomes easy to share from the heart. Gone are the worries about what will he/she think of me and the words just pore out. When it happens you know it and it feels wonderful.
What makes it possible to feel safe? One of the best indicators is the level of our self-esteem. When our self-esteem is high we are able to hear what someone else says as their conclusion and we will only take it personally if we can see that it truly applies to us. People with high self-esteem feel in charge of themselves and their communication is direct, specific, congruent, and growth-producing.
Thus the best thing one can do to communicate authentically is to work on strengthening self-esteem. Most people as adults have to unlearn communication habits they learned because they realize that they have built up defenses that do not allow them to communicate as freely as they would like.
In healthy relationships the rules that couples set up for how they communicate are flexible and up-to-date. Rules can be changed if the situation changes. My husband had a colleague once who said that his step daughter could not start wearing lipstick and use make-up until she was 16. He gave no explanation as to how he arrived at that conclusion. It was evident that the girl, who at the time was 13, had other ideas. This man did not welcome input from his wife or step daugther rather he relished his rule making. His intentions were good; however, without agreement this plan was doomed for failure. Indeed this is what happened. The girl reacted to the rigidity of expectations and began acting out and disobeying. She did not feel that her ideas were valued.
Real communication happens when people feel that their feelings are respected and their thoughts are valued. That is when they feel safe as individuals and in their relationships.