Why we need more honest communication in our relationships?

Feb 7, 2022

Mike Korman

I’m a certified coach therapist supporting and guiding those desiring more compassion and connection to themselves and in their relationships. I weave together nonviolent communication and mindfulness.

I’d like to talk about honesty. I am very drawn to honesty. I wonder why that is. 

Well for me when someone is honest with me it makes me feel connected (it meets my need for connection). I think it’s because when one is honest with me then I know what is present inside them. I know what is really going on in them. And then I feel calmness and relaxation. 

Conversely, when I sense that someone is upset with me and they don’t tell me, I feel uneasy, tense. My need for connection is not met to the same extent. 

So what I’m saying I guess is that my need for connection is met when I’m connected to what is alive in this moment. And I’m talking specifically about what is alive in the other person but not only. I also meet my need for connection when I’m aware of what is alive in me. 

So honesty is really the way to increase connection for me. The more honesty there is between me and another, the more my need for connection is met. 

I also notice that honest communication meets my needs for freedom. 

I feel relief when a conversation becomes more honest. Like a rush of joy. “Oh thank you for being honest” I think. It’s like permission has been given to just be me and for the other to just be them. There is something very enjoyable about this. There is a flow created in the conversation that beforehand perhaps wasn’t there. 

Oftentimes communication is bound by feelings of fear, guilt and shame. The communication is not free. Instead we fear what the other might think of us or if we will hurt the other by being honest. Or we feel ashamed for being honest, as if there’s something wrong with us for feeling or thinking or needing what we do. And maybe we feel guilt for honestly expressing ourselves, including what we think. As if something about speaking honestly is not OK. 

So when honest communication occurs something else has come into the conversation. It’s no longer filled with us feeling and being governed by feelings of fear, guilt and shame. It now has a new thread to it. It’s being motivated by the drive for connection and the drive for freedom to just speak openly and uninhibitedly.

What is honest communication?

I want to clarify something here. I want to make sure I’m understood with what I’m writing. 

When I say I yearn for honesty I mean a particular type of honesty. 

For me honest communication is communication that includes everything that is going on inside of us. As I understand it there are three things going on in us at any given moment – thoughts (often expressed as judgments), feelings (including sensations) and needs (that which drives or motivates us in life). 

The honest communication I talk about here is about expressing each one of these. 

And for me there is a particular way that I love hearing it expressed (and expressing it myself). I love when there is a sense of an observer or someone who is able to look at what is going on and point at it and say “yes, that is what is going on there”. 

So this looks like the following in relation to expressing thoughts. Instead of saying “He shouldn’t have done that” I like to say “I’m thinking ‘he shouldn’t have done that’” or “I notice a thought that says “He shouldn’t have done that’”. 

Likewise with feelings. Instead of saying “I’m angry” I think it’s more accurate to say “I’m feeling anger now”. Because when I say “I’m feeling anger now” there is a recognition that there is the feeling of anger occurring now and also there is me who is aware of that. 

Speaking like this – “I’m thinking”…. and “I’m feeling” …. – acknowledges the impermanence of all things that come up in us. Whereas saying “I’m angry” tends to imply that who I am is anger, that it is me and therefore not going to pass. 

So as I write this I realise that I really enjoy this way of communicating because it doesn’t just connect me with the other person, it also connects me with who I am. 

As I see it, I am that which can be aware of the thoughts that arise in me, the feelings that arise in me and the needs that are alive in me. 

If I were those thoughts themselves or feelings or needs, then I couldn’t be aware of them. I would be them. As I experience it, there is a distance between me and between everything that arises inside me. 

I am the constant observer that watches everything arise and fall. Thoughts, feelings and needs are those parts of life that do the arising and the falling. 

Mindfulness and Nonviolent Communication

In this article I notice that I’m merging mindfulness and nonviolent communication. Mindfulness directs us to the observer, the noticer, that is aware of that which comes and goes, without getting involved in it. Getting involved means analysing it “why is it there?” or trying to change it “how can I get rid of it?”. When we are mindful, we are simply aware. We can see that there are thoughts, feelings and needs and there is that presence that is aware of those thoughts, feelings and needs. 

Nonviolent communication directs our attention to what is alive in us and helps us give it words. In particular nonviolent communication helps us connect to the feelings arising in us and to the needs that are often underneath these feelings as driving forces moving us to act and do. 

I’m really interested in the intersection between nonviolent communication and mindfulness. 

I’m really interested in what’s really going on here, right now. And I’m interested in expressing that. Because in the expressing of that I build connection with others and with myself. I connect to what is alive in me without losing myself in it. I remain aware that thoughts, feelings and needs come and they go and change into other thoughts, feelings and needs. Yet as all this changes, I remain. I give importance to all that arises in me, yet not ultimate importance. That is, I don’t forget that I am more than everything that arises in me. That this personal story, this thing I call “my life (my thoughts, feelings and needs)” is not of absolute importance. It is beautiful, this human story, yet it is not of absolute importance, there is more to me as well.

All of this I can be aware of and all of this I can honestly express. 

So in a way communication for me is a way of connecting with the present moment, and everything alive in it, including me. 

As always, I love hearing what resonated with you. If you feel inspired by this article, you might like to share it, or save it or send me a message. Whatever you’d enjoy to do….

Mike Korman
I’m a certified coach therapist supporting and guiding those desiring more compassion and connection to themselves and in their relationships. I weave together nonviolent communication and mindfulness.

Reach me directly here...

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