By Tarryn Lingle
Relationships are not easy, but communication and boundaries are key to having a healthy one, according to Educator Nikki Head from The Family Place, a safe place for victims of domestic violence to seek shelter, counseling and skills to obtain independence.
Head spoke at Eastfield March 9 about effective communication and setting boundaries to pave the way for any relationship to be healthy. She provided tools to not only strengthen relationships but also strengthen communication skills in any situation.
Friendships, familial and romantic relationships can be healthy if assertive communication and boundaries are used throughout.
“Assertive communication is expressing yourself in a way that is very direct,” Head said, “being able to stand up for yourself and demanding that other people treat you with respect.”
Head explained that it is important for people in impressionable ages to be provided the information and tools to learn how to effectively and safely verbalize their boundaries and feelings.
Young people need to learn effective and respectful communication skills to allow for a healthy relationship to flourish, but also to protect themselves.
“In our program we teach assertive communication skills to elementary students and middle school students, because we found that people who are more assertive are less likely to be bullied,” Head said.
When there is a respect and understanding in a relationship it will make it an overall better relationship, preventing verbal and physical abuse, she said.
When a person can tell others what they like and don’t like and has the tools to communicate clearly and appropriately, any relationship can be successful and healthy for both parties, education major Cayla Jackson said.
“Communication allows for people to express their desires, feelings, dreams and expectations,” Jackson said. “If these are shared respectfully and effectively through the relationship, it will allow less opportunity for arguments and altercations.”
CREST is an acronym Head used to easily remember key elements to healthy relationships: communication, respect, equality, safety and trust. Knowing what each word means helps you evaluate and hold yourself accountable, she said.
“A relationship without respect will result in the couple taking advantage of one another,” English major Nicole Taylor said. “When couples communicate effectively with each other, they are able to talk through their arguments, avoiding possible emotional and physical abuse.”
Being able to set boundaries that benefit you and your relationship are not easy to come by or set, Head said.
“Setting boundaries is a skill,” she said. “It changes with who you are talking to and around.”
To successfully set boundaries that will allow for a healthy and safe relationship, one must be mindful to their own needs, intentionally set them and practice being assertive for other to obey their boundaries, Head said. Setting boundaries can protect both your physical and emotional well-being.
“Sometimes people will have negative reactions when we set boundaries with them,” Head said, “it is important to be prepared for those responses because they are used to make us feel guilty and bad, but at the same time it is not us being selfish for having them.”
When a person is prepared for these responses, they can learn to identify and ignore them.
[quote]“Boundaries are not us being selfish. They are necessary for us to be our best self,” Head said. “We can’t really be good for other people if we aren’t taking care of ourselves at the same time.” [/quote]
It is easy to misconstrue setting boundaries as being selfish or inconsiderate to the other person in the relationships feelings, but in reality, it is a way to keep both people feeling safe and comfortable, leading to healthier relationship, she said.
“If boundaries are expressed in the beginning of relationships, it allows the people involved to discuss whether or not it is plausible for the relationship to continue,” Jackson said. “It is important that they are revisited throughout the relationship so that if new boundaries rise, they can be confronted and worked out.”
Head said there is no right or wrong answer on how to set healthy boundaries and have effective communication skills. Rather, it is a process of identifying what a good relationship means to the people involved.