Open and Honest Communication – A Staple of Every Relationship


Open and Honest Communication - A Staple of Every RelationshipMy name is Zoe Hanis and I have trust issues. I extremely dislike being vulnerable and have a difficult time opening up to people about my own needs. I think this is why transparency and open and honest communication is extraordinarily important to me. In fact, it is the cornerstone all my relationships.

Many people seem to have the mistaken belief that confronting someone about a behavior, attitude, or something that was said is a bad thing. They may be worried that they will hurt the other person’s feelings or they may feel that they wish to avoid an argument. Unfortunately, this can cause more harm than good.

Recently, I unknowingly made a very good friend of mine uncomfortable. I was completely unaware of how s/he perceived me. Unfortunately, instead of coming to me to talk about it, s/he went to Hubby's girlfriend. This created many more problems than it solved.

She told our friend to talk to me as she is not responsible for my behavior. But because that didn’t happen and because it was brought to her attention, she felt obligated to make peace. I had no idea that there was a problem. So hearing her tell me that someone was complaining about my behavior, without any sort of details, felt like I was being criticized.

This is a HUGE trigger for me. No matter what she is actually saying, what I hear is “you aren’t good enough,” “you are disappointing me,” or “you can’t do anything right.” It makes me shut down. I want to crawl back in bed and put the covers over my head. I end up bawling over every little thing. And I begin to withdraw from the relationship; a definite wedge starts to form.

I also begin to obsess. Who have I offended and what did I do? In the absence of information, I comb over every possibility and begin to suspect everyone. My trust level is lowered and I feel like withdrawing from our circle of friends. I don’t want to go to events that any of them will be at. I don’t want to socialize with them. My every interaction is carefully weighted. It is exhausting.

I have learned that what works for me (and hopefully, other people) is a way of approaching a problem by not criticizing the other individual, but by explaining one’s own feelings. If my friend would have said to me, “It really makes me uncomfortable that you …,” then I could have addressed it. My usual reaction to a statement like this is to give an explanation for why I did/said whatever, reflect on the fact that it made him/her uncomfortable, apologize if necessary and adjust my behavior so that we can have better interactions and the friendship can grow.

For example: I had someone tell me that they were very upset by something that I had said without really thinking (that is one reason I prefer to blog – my thoughts are much more filtered). As soon as she brought it up, I told her that I was truly sorry. I knew that I was in the wrong; I had no right to say what I had, AND I told her so. I also explained what was going through my mind at the time, hoping that context might help her better understand where my mind was. We came to an understanding and were able to move past it. She appreciated that I heard what she was telling me in a very rational and positive manner. And I appreciated that she not only told me, but that she told me in such a way that I would not get defensive. She did not say “you shouldn’t have said this” or “I can’t believe you are such a bitch” (both of which I have heard on occasion (remember lower filter in person)), but phrased it in terms of her feelings and her reactions.

Because I care about my friends, their feelings and our relationships, I am willing to adjust my behavior and be more aware of established comfort boundaries. I am always willing to apologize when I feel that I have done something wrong and will freely admit to my mistakes. But I can’t do that without trusting that my friends will be able to be open and honest with me.


Zoe first described herself as "bad at monogamy" until about five years ago when she and her husband discovered the term that actually described her: polyamorous. Since then they have opened their family to other partners. Zoe is currently juggling relationships with her husband, their two kids, her husband's girlfriend, and a slew of friends/loves that she calls her tribal poly family. She can be reached on facebook or on twitter @ZoeHanis

1 Comment

  1. Being open and honest is so difficult when it comes to communicating your own needs; and that kind of behaviour, where you skirt around people, talk to the wrong people… argh. It doesn’t help. You have my sympathy.

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