It is perhaps the most important component of healthy relationships: Good communication. Communicating successfully is often easier said than done, though. So I would like to share five questions to ask yourself before you communicate in a sticky situation.

Have you ever had something difficult to say to someone, but didn’t know how to say it? Sometimes, mastering the art of communication can leave you tongue-tied. I have found that not saying things that need to be said can be a tremendous source of stress. You end up allowing others to repeatedly cross your boundaries — you’re annoyed and frustrated and the situation only grows worse as you remain quiet about it.

Whether it’s a co-worker who talks too much, a friend who is unappreciative, or a spouse or significant other that you need to talk to about an issue, communicating effectively when there is a problem can sometimes be difficult. I have learned that you can say just about anything to anyone, though, and still keep your relationship in tact. In fact, the relationship is often strengthened by opening the door to honest and effective communication. Here are five questions I have found very helpful to ask myself when communication with someone has the potential to be a bit uncomfortable.

What is the most important thing I want to communicate?
The more delicate the issue, the more important it is identify WHAT you want to communicate. The more succinctly you can explain your points, the more likely it is that you will be successful in your conversation with the person. Try to keep from bringing up a lot of information that may be factual, but is irrelevant to what you are trying to communicate. Stick to your point, or you may find yourself having a conversation about something totally different than you intended and the conversation may never get back on track — leaving you frustrated and back to square one.

What do I want to happen as a result of the conversation?
Once you know what you want to communicate, identify what you want to happen as a result. Is it that you want to clear the air? Do you want the other person or both of you to take some specific action? Do you want to better understand where they are coming from? Do you want

to end the relationship? Know what it is that you want to happen so that you can bring closure to the conversation once the result is agreed upon.

Am I focused on content or emotion?
Often, difficult communication has a great deal of emotion tied to it. Speak in a neutral tone so that you build bridges for open communication rather than building walls that will make the other person defensive. Emotional communication is often very counterproductive. Being truthful about your feelings can help. For example, if you say “When you do XYZ, it makes me feel ….” When others, especially those who care about us, realize that their actions have had a negative impact on you, they are more likely to make positive changes. Rather than accusing, seek to help others understand you while validating that there are two sides to every story. You are judging them, but giving them the benefit of the doubt.

What is the right time and place?
There is a time and place for everything. Make sure you choose the optimal time and place for your conversation. Communicating your feelings during a meeting involving others may not be appropriate or effective. But asking to talk to the person in private will convey respect and the importance of the issue. Bringing up important issues during an argument may not be effective because emotions are high. Attempting a serious conversation with your significant other during their favorite television program might not be the best plan either. Select a time when you both may be in the right frame of mind and free of distractions.

What’s the other side of the story?
Ask for feedback. Ask questions. Clarify that you understand the other person. Be open to truly hear what they have to say. Then, together agree to an outcome. You can go back to question number two .. what is the result you want from the communication? Make sure you bring closure to the conversation.

My challenge to you this week: Take Action!

Have that conversation you’ve been procrastinating about. The burden and dread of not communicating honestly in your relationships is not worth the stress. Say what needs to be said this week, but first answer the five key questions above so that you can communicate in the most productive and positive way.

Journaling assignment
This week, ponder this question: In what ways do I need to better communicate in my relationships with others.

Valorie Burton is a bestselling Christian author, life coach and regular media guest on topics of living a more fulfilling, less stressful life. Her latest book, Listen to Your Life, identifies seven principles to hear what your life is saying to you and fulfill your purpose in your career, finances, relationships, health and spiritual life. Visit her at .

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