Ever feel like talking about certain things can be a bit tricky?

Mar 1 / Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy

“How do we navigate conversations about difficult topics with loved ones?"

The simple answer is that we all struggle with difficult conversations AND there are simple strategies we can use to help us keep our cool and focus on what matters during these conversations. Here, I offer an easy-to-remember tool you can start practicing every day, with easy and hard conversations so others will listen and collaborate with you.

First, remember… we’re not alone! Relationships can be a bit challenging, but they’re super important to help us get through our daily lives. Expressing our thoughts, feelings, and needs in a healthy way is a secret ingredient for family mental health. But here’s the thing – not all of us learn how to do this at home or school.
That’s where this blog post comes in.

Healthy communication skills can reduce the stress in our lives. These include skills like being able to talk openly, listening well, showing compassion and being understanding of each other. It’s like the glue that holds strong and resilient families together. When we express ourselves in a respectful and open way, we build trust, strengthen relationships, and tackle challenges as a team. And that’s  important because none of us can handle our struggles alone.

But, a few obstacles can get in the way of smooth family communication. Problems with communication like previous misunderstandings, unclear requests, and unexpressed feelings can create tension. When we add in societal expectations, cultural differences, and different personality traits, things can get a bit tricky. This is extra important to remember when we aim to support the little ones in our lives, as they are still learning the ropes of how to identify, name, and express their emotions (here’s a secret, most kids can’t do this well, and consistently until they’re at least 8 years old!). Recognizing and dealing with these barriers is key to working toward a healthy family dynamic.

The good news is that you can communicate assertively when you plan ahead. The letters
DEAR MAN give us a step-by-step guide for clear and thoughtful communication:
  • D: Describe the situation clearly.
  • E: Express your feelings using “I feel…” statements.
  • A: Assert your needs by making requests or saying “no” when needed.
  • R: Reinforce your request by explaining why it’s important to you.
  • M: Stay Mindful – choose quiet spaces and stay on topic.
  • A: Appear confident and remember your needs are valid.
  • N: Negotiate – find a balance between assertiveness and empathy, and be willing to hear the other person’s opinion on how to solve the problem.

Using DEAR MAN might take some practice. Start with simple asks, like letting a friend know you’d appreciate it if they could text you if they’ll be late. Once you feel comfortable with simple asks, try more challenging ones like letting someone know when you need space or time to yourself.

Remember, overcoming barriers to healthy communication is important to everyone’s mental health. We are not aiming for perfection, just striving for progress toward the shared goal of love, compassion and understanding. Not everyone will meet our requests, but using tools like DEAR MAN to support effective communication can help navigate challenges, resolve conflicts, and strengthen connections.

"This piece was previously published by Those Nerdy Girls and can be found here"
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