How to communicate with those we love

Pondering over the title of this blog post, one can’t help but feel the anguish that’s caught up in such a topic. At Orri, we treat both the person with the eating disorder and their loved ones. Because of this, we’re all too aware how easy it is for communication to break down, despite how much we’re trying to reach out to one another with genuine care and concern.

Simply put, we all want to feel seen and heard – sufferer and carer alike – but sometimes the “issue” itself can become a seemingly impenetrable wall and honest conversation feels inferior as a means of breaking it down. Regardless, we believe that communication can happen when we truly meet and see one another. Here are our suggestions if you’re considering reaching out to your loved one.

Firstly, appreciate your courage

Whether you’re suffering with an eating disorder or caring for someone with an eating disorder, take a moment to recognise the situation you’re in and the fact that you’re trying your hardest. Reaching out and communicating with people during difficult times can be extremely daunting as you cannot control their response – sometimes it feels easier not to communicate. So, appreciate your courage despite how vulnerable you may be feeling. If you’re suffering with an eating disorder, by communicating with your loved one you’re providing them with an opportunity to separate the illness from the person. Here are two quotes from the vulnerability and shame goddess that is Brene Brown:

 “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have hard conversations”

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Secondly, consider what you want from the conversation

It’s important to put some thought into what you want from the conversation. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to communicate today? What do I want heard?
  • What are my expectations from the conversation?
  • How much can I expect them to understand/not understand?
  • After the conversation, how do I want to suggest communicating going forwards?
  • What do I do if the conversation doesn’t quite go to plan?

By taking time to answer these questions, you’re providing yourself with the opportunity to prepare. Often in these conversations we’re trying to communicate our needs – which may be a confusing topic in itself and hard for the other person to get their head around. Even if it comes out jumbled on the day (it’s okay if it’s not perfect!) you can hope that the other person will witness your courage and the thought put into it.

Thirdly, pick a time where emotions aren’t running high

We know how tempting it is to “hash everything out” in the moment when moods are tense and tempers are high. However, when we want to be truly heard and listened to, the best time is when everyone involved is relaxed and not prone to “reacting”. Often you can’t manufacture these situations, so keep an eye out for when those you love appear open to honest conversation that’s coming from the heart.

Lastly, remember that you’re all in it together

Keep in mind that people communicate their love and care in different ways. We all have our unique stories and unique reasons for how and why we process our experiences and other people around us. If someone responds with anger, confusion or any perceived negative emotion, remember that it might be frustration that they’re feeling towards themselves for not being able to meet you where they are. If possible, respond to them with love and explain that it’s okay if they don’t understand right now – the important thing is that there’s a open dialogue between you and those you care about. 

“Be as passionate about listening as you are about wanting to be heard.” 

Brene Brown

To conclude this blog post, we want to return to the first point – appreciate your courage. It may be that it takes several attempts to connect with one another, but that’s okay. Recognise that you’ve been brave and respond to that with genuine self-care that meets your needs.

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