Does the idea of the following make you want to run for the hills?
- A confrontation with your partner
- Setting boundaries with a parent
- Disappointing a friend
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. In her 2 decades as a psychotherapist, relationship strategist Shyamala Kiru saw a common narrative among her female clients: high-performing, successful women seemed to have it all on the outside but didn’t know how show up in their personal lives.
When you avoid difficult conversations, you’ll struggle to maintain authentic relationships. Shyamala has 3 tips to help improve your emotional intelligence and move past your fears:
- Understand your relationship template
Your relationship template is the way you’re programmed to interact with others. You don’t choose it – it’s handed to you in your family of origin and is usually translated at an unconscious level. This template determines:
- How you handle conflict
- How you express emotions
- What you’re ashamed of
- What you won’t talk about with others
Nearly all of us take our relationship template with us into our adult relationships. If the template is damaged (and it usually is to some degree) we struggle to show up in an authentic way. But if we take time to understand it, we can improve it.
- Shift your mindset
To improve your relationship template, you must accept responsibility for your part. Even the most difficult relationships still involve 2 people – and you’re one of them. When you shift your mindset to one of awareness and accountability for your own actions you’ll start to see familiar traps and limiting beliefs that direct your interactions with others.
Also, don’t assume you know what the other person is thinking or feeling. Focus on your own actions – and reactions.
- Learn your communication style
Once you’re more aware of your part, it’s time to reprogram the way you communicate. Most of us operate out of a problematic or toxic communication style, or more likely, a combination of styles. These include:
Passive: You don’t share what you truly think, feel, or need. You fear conflict and avoid ‘rocking the boat’.
Aggressive: You have a high need for control and are overly invested in the outcome of a conversation to go your way.
Passive-Aggressive: You tend to be manipulative and controlling. You don’t always directly express your wishes but you make sure they happen in the end.
When you’re stressed, you most likely gravitate to one of the above. All are unhealthy. But there is another way.
- Be assertive
It’s time for a new and improved communication style: assertive. This may sound off-putting, but it’s actually empowering for everyone involved. When you practice assertive communication, you’re comfortable asking for what you want regardless of whether or not you get it. This does 2 powerful things: it allows you to let go of the outcome and gives the other party the freedom to comfortably say no.
This can feel awkward at first, but it’s important to remember that the outcome of a difficult conversation is not where your power lies. When you’re too invested in the outcome you’ve already given away your power anyway.
The benefits of assertive communication are plentiful: you’ll sleep better, have less anxiety, feel less pressure, have more confidence, and build more authentic relationships.
When you learn to show up as your best self, you can maintain your feminine energy but hold your space powerfully. When you do, everyone in your life will benefit.