The Other Side of Open Communication

a neon OPEN sign
Image by Scott McLeod / CC BY

“You just need to have open, honest communication.”

The people who originally introduced me to polyamory explained it to me that way. It was the closest thing we had to a firm, fast rule. The one bit of instruction that was consistently provided.

In every scenario, it was said, you couldn’t go wrong with open, honest communication.

It was our mantra. Our guiding light.

And not a bad way to conduct oneself.

Incorporating more open, honest communication into my life didn’t just benefit me romantically. But I found it helped me with my friendships, family links. Basically, it was a big gamechanger everywhere.

A good friend of mine referred to it jokingly as him having “gone vegan with his emotions.” By that, he meant that he was finally sharing them with others and spending less time paralyzed or silenced by shame or fear.

Open, Honest Communication Sounds Simple But Can Be Very Complicated in Practice

While it was good advice, I can’t help but think of how overly confident we were in those days, armed with that one piece of advice. And how overly confident we were that we understood what it meant.

Both the openness and honesty were harder and more complicated than we could have ever imagined going in.

Honesty was tricky for some because they had a hard time with self-honesty. They couldn’t speak the truth because they didn’t know the truth. Or perceive the truth. Or in some situations, they couldn’t accept the truth.

And openness, too, was trickier than the maxim framed it. Because our openness was often terribly lopsided in practice.

The Other Side of Open Communication

Many times, when people are talking about openly communicating with others, they focus on being an open sender. Saying what you mean. Being honest about your intentions, feelings, actions, etc.

But that’s not all of it. That’s only half, really. It’s not just about being open with your own needs and wants.

It’s also about being open to what the other person wants and needs. And what they have to say. Even if it’s not something you want to hear.

It’s actually the part of being an assertive communicator that people struggle the most with. Being open to what other people are saying, even when you don’t like what they’re saying.

And I’ve found a lot of people who advocate for open, honest communication and insist that they adhere to it faithfully are good at openly sending their feelings but struggle with being open to what they’re told by others. Especially when they find the message in the communication unpleasant.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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1 Comment

  1. The other (3rd?) side… the base to open communication is that which takes place internally. If we aren’t open and determined to increase self-awareness, to ask ourselves hard question, to embrace our discomfort, then how well can we communicate with others.

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