Being vulnerable and discussing difficult topics, whether it’s related to an eating disorder or not, can be extremely overwhelming. Being afraid to ask for help or have those difficult discussions can have a huge effect on the recovery or mental state of someone in need. For individuals with eating disorders, rather than communicating their thoughts and feelings, they often turn to their disordered habits for comfort. Learning communication skills can make stressful discussions easier and more productive, and can be a huge help in recovery.
Tips for Effective Communication
- Assertive Communication. There are 4 communication styles, one of which is known as assertive communication. When people communicate assertively, they speak honestly and openly about their feelings, thoughts, needs, or wants. They also hold in mind the other person’s perspective. Assertive communication is a way of approaching a conversation with the intention for both people to meet their needs.
Healthy assertive communication often includes a lot of “I-messages”. This form of speaking allows you to own your feelings and thoughts without blaming the other person. This form of responsible communication can be extremely effective in stressful discussions where emotions can run high and anger can take over.
- Know When to Take a Break. Conversations are not going to be productive if either person is too angry or emotional. Sometimes, when one or both parties are worked up, it can help to take a break until everyone is calm. Taking a break is also a good way to take care of yourself. If discussions get emotional, this is a good time to focus on your thoughts and feelings, process them, relax, and unwind.
- Active Listening. Active listening involves giving someone your undivided attention so that you can hear and understand what they are saying. Often during stressful conversations, people listen so that they can come up with a response. Rather than listening to respond, active listening means listening to understand the other person.
Letting someone else know that you are listening and understanding them is a powerful way to diffuse tension. One way to let them know you are listening is through body language. Maintaining eye contact and sitting facing someone are two ways to use body language to show you’re engaged in the conversation. Repeating back what you heard is another great way to show that you are listening and hearing them.
Just like with other skills, communication skills take practice. It can be intimidating to start practicing as some discussions can be emotional and difficult. The more you do it, the better you’ll become. Practice, even with communication, makes perfect.
If you are dealing with an eating disorder and want to discuss it with someone at Avalon Hills to determine if you or a loved one would be a good fit for residential treatment, give us a call at 435-938-6060 or reach out to our admissions team from our website.