Healthy Relationships: common relationship problems leading to breakups

Communication for Healthy Relationships

How to Communicate More Like a Long-Necked Giraffe (and Less Like a Jackal)

What are healthy relationships made of?  Communication.  As it goes, so goes the relationship.  In a world where we receive a shockingly inadequate amount of instruction in skills so critical, none of us can afford to remain totally uncoached, whether by practicing good communication on our own or with a life coach.  Relationship problems are among the thorniest any of us experience.  At home, at work, and even during what’s supposed to be play, if problems of communication and perception are left unchecked, relationship break-up too often follows.

Yet in these venues we play out all the misunderstandings, the conflicts, the simmering resentments, and the explosions of anger that Daniel Goleman, in his seminal book Emotional Intelligence, called “emotional hijackings”.  In short, all too often we find ourselves possessed by what the Center for NonViolent Communication (CNVC) calls the mindset (and perhaps also the emotional repertoire) of the jackal.  How to be more like giraffes?

Mindfulness, Cognitive Therapy and Skillful Means

There are two essential means of dealing with misunderstandings in communication, and at some level of analysis they actually flow into one.  The first way is simply (if not so easily) mindfulness — an awareness of the sensations, or feelings, in the body, as well as continual attention paid to the emotions in the heart and mind. With awareness comes some level of freedom, for awareness, like sunlight, is a great disinfectant.


Have you ever dealt with a difficult person by mirroring, or reflecting, their complaint back to them? So what I hear you saying is . . . It is incredibly effective at defusing hijacked emotion.  In fact, acknowledging any strong or negative emotion or thought tends to defuse it.  This is nowhere more true than when you acknowledge thoughts or emotions in yourself, by bringing them into conscious awareness.  The very act of doing so diminishes the emotional charge.  With repetition over time, the charge can virtually disappear.

What should you be aware of?  Well, you can be aware of the storm before it hits.  Those skilled at mindfulness, such as experienced meditators, can discern an emotional storm even before it hits — something most of us would rightly view as impossible, at least in the near-future, absent practice.  For most of us, we see only that a storm has hit, after the fact: Oh, look at all the houses that tornado carried off. What mess, what devastation, did I cause that?

Yes you did.


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