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The Role of Effective Communication in Successful Relationships

One of the world’s longest studies of adult life, which has focused on identifying the characteristics that promote healthy, happy, and long lives, has come to one surprising conclusion: that our social relationships have a profound impact on our physical health. The so-called Grant Study has found that the existence of close relationships and how successful they are—more than our IQ, personal accomplishments, financial success, and even genetics—predicts how long and healthy we will live (1). 

Other research has shown that:

  • Individuals who report having healthy relationships and social support have better overall lifestyle habits and cardiometabolic health (2).
  • Social isolation is strongly associated with increased risk of obesity and developing cardiovascular disease (3).
  • Romantic relationship health influences the likelihood of developing cardiometabolic health issues (4).
  • Individuals are more likely to undertake healthy lifestyle change, and do so successfully, when they have a strong social network and have family and friend support (5).

There is no denying that healthy social relationships promote health in every other aspect of life, and that they also take work. One of the cornerstones of any healthy relationship is communication, something that takes effort and practice. Effective communication is a skill, which will pay dividends throughout a long and healthy life.

What Is Effective Communication?

Communication is how we express our feelings, opinions, and expectations, as well as resolve conflict. Communicating effectively isn’t just about the exchange of information. To be an effective communicator we must listen first, in a manner that helps us gain a full understanding of what the other is conveying, and make sure they feel understood before we respond. When responding, it’s important to take steps to ensure our message is not misunderstood so that conflict can be avoided or resolved. Developing effective communication skills takes persistent work, but is one of the best ways to deepen connections with everybody around us, build trust, solve problems, and promote our emotional and physical health.

Studies have consistently shown that effective communication is strongly associated with higher levels of satisfaction and better conflict resolution in relationships (6). Communication is unique to every relationship, but there are some general guidelines:

Listen

Listen actively; look at who you are speaking to, pay attention to body language, and don’t mentally prepare for a rebuttal until they have finished speaking.

Focus

Focus exclusively on who you are talking to. If it’s important, it’s important enough to discuss without the interference of other people or distractions, such as screens.

Be Clear

Be clear upfront about what you want to communicate and make sure your message is heard and understood accurately.

Be Positive

Share positive feelings and appreciation regularly, especially when there is conflict.

Let Things Go

Remember that you don’t have to be right all the time; is it more important to be right or happy? If it’s not that important, let it go.

Effective communication is a skill that must be developed over time, but reaps rewards in the form of progressively stronger social bonds along the way. Prime Meridian Healthcare™ emphasizes Mindful Relationships because the health of our relationships has a profound impact on the health of our mind and body. For more information about effective communication or the importance of relationships on health, visit pmhclinics.com or contact a Prime Meridian Healthcare™ provider. 

References

1

Successful Aging 

Vaillant G., et al

4

Association of Body Mass Index and Abdominal Obesity with Marital Status in Adults 

Janghorbani M., et al.

2

Relationship between Marital Status and Metabolic Syndrome in Korean Middle-Aged Women

Jung Y., et al.

5

The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change

Jackson S., et al.

3

Associations of Loneliness and Social Isolation with Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health

Valtorta N., et al.

6

Does Couples’ Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication? 

Lavner J., et al.