Healthy Communication: What do I say?… How do I say it?

by Rafee Jajou

Rafee serves as the employee staff care lead at Christian Bros and provides a pastoral presence in La Mesa.  He is a partner with Squarepatch (an employee care service).  He’s also my homie and good friend!


I was raised in a home with a lot of unhealthy communication. Shaming and blame was almost a weekly occurrence. Fear and love were always in a battle. For many of us, we may have learned from childhood what we don’t want in our own relationships and family life. Unfortunately we still inherit some unhealthy ways, and these can even affect our workplace too.

I’m taking an online seminar in healthy boundaries and communication. There are some key ideas that could help any situation where there’s a need for healthy communication. There are 3 main ways of communicating: Passive, Assertive, Aggressive.

Myth: The primary goal in communication is agreeing.
Truth: Priority #1– Our first goal in communication is to understand the other person, regardless if we agree or disagree with someone.

When we listen well and ask questions, we can see what is going on from their viewpoint…

  • If that isn’t the goal, then we’re starting off on the wrong foot and there will eventually be a break-down in communication.
  • We must seek to communicate what’s going on inside of us, and not to assume what’s going on inside of someone else. Our job is to help someone understand us, and ask someone to help us better understand them.
  • Listening well and seeking understanding sends the message, “You matter to me,” and decreases anxiety in the moment.

Communication Styles:

  • A healthy communicator is an assertive communicator. They require people’s respect, and others to manage themselves (be self-controlled) in any given relationship.
  • The passive communicator sends the message “Your needs matter; mine don’t”. They might say things like, “Fine. Whatever you want. Don’t worry about me.”
  • The aggressive communicator believes, “I matter; you don’t”. Fear and intimidation are used to communicate their needs.
  • A passive-agressive communicator sends the message, “You matter… no, not really.” They use sarcasm, innuendos, veiled threats, and manipulation to communicate their needs.
  • Assertive communicators send the message: “You matter and so do I”. They require conversations to involve two self-controlled people. They say things like “I’d be glad to listen as long as this conversation is respectful”, or “I will take you out to the ball game as soon as you’re done with ______.”

So Assertive communication is what we’re practicing and aiming for because it respects the power of both sides and invites growth and trust.

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