How learning to communicate changed my life

When I first embarked on my communication journey, my goal was simple: I need to get rid of this crippling anxiety that is plaguing my relationships. Unfortunately, this journey led me down a path that revealed a painful reality: I had a severe lack of self-confidence in relationships. And if I was going to ever feel safe in relationship, I would have to face this depressing truth. Here’s my story. ​ • • • ​ My eyes dart open. I’m hoping to see the warm glow of the sun, but the room is still pitch black. Fuck… not again. I roll over and check the time: 4am. I do the math.. 3 hours of sleep. How am I going to get through this day? I lay there tossing and turning until the sun rises, and I force myself out of bed. I have a big client project to finish, but I can barely muster the energy to brush my teeth. I check my phone for the 7th time this morning to see if she’s texted me back… she hasn’t. She doesn’t give a shit about me. Why am I doing this? I spend the rest of the morning trying to focus on my life, but I’m just obsessing about my relationship. Why can’t she see me? Why won’t she make this better? How can she be so heartless? My heart rate is off the charts. I can’t think straight. Instead of doing the client project, I try to journal my thoughts… should I stay in this relationship or not? How can I? I can’t focus on my work. I can’t enjoy time with my friends and family. What is the point of this? But what if we break up and I never find someone as good? But I need intimacy…. I need to be able to express myself…I need to feel safeI can’t be this lonely anymore. I felt hopeless… I’m too anxious. I’ll never be in a healthy relationship. ​ ​ • • • This was my life 1 year ago. One day, I was desperately trying to figure out how to communicate my pain, and I chanced upon a glimmer of hope in the form of an old book called Nonviolent Communication. It promised a way to open up and be vulnerable. I wasn’t keen on reading it, but I decided I would try the first chapter. I was instantly hooked. I devoured the book in two days, and I’ll never forget the first time I tried out my new vulnerability skills. My partner and I were in a text message battle, and it’d been 6 hours since I heard from her. I could see she read my last 3 messages, but refused to respond. We had been here before, and it typically didn’t end well. But this was my moment to try something new! I used the framework in the book and typed out exactly how I was feeling in a vulnerable way. I didn’t blame, and I didn’t criticize. I took ownership. I was speaking from the heart. …and she responded almost immediately. My jaw dropped. Holy shit this actually works!!! I was blown away. I didn’t know it at the time, but that text message altered the course of my entire life. ​ • • • ​ I knew I needed more, so I decided I would train with communication experts. I set out on a global adventure, immersing myself in workshops, retreats, and training sessions with top-tier trainers from around the world. I studied with mentors, coaches, and experts in the United States, Canada, and even as far as New Zealand. I was growing in ways I had never experienced before. I felt like I could handle any emotional challenge thrown my way… ….until one actually came… ​ • • • ​ ​Not too long in my journey I was faced with my first real test: I had to confront my neighbour about her barking dog. Her dog would bark from 4am until 6am every day, and it was wreaking havoc on my sleep. She had a reputation for being cold and unapproachable, so I was terrified to confront her. HOWEVER!… with my new skills, surely this would be something I could handle, so I thought. But, when it came time to have the conversation… I froze. I walked up to her fence, and my heart was beating outside of my chest. I couldn’t do it. So I walked back to my house with my head down. I paced back and forth in my living room. Has this whole adventure been a waste of time? How can I not stand up for myself? That’s when I realized an uncomfortable truth: no matter how skilled you become, opening up and being vulnerable is still fucking hard. I still had to face rejection. And I would have to find a way to be okay with myself if that rejection came. This is unacceptable! I didn’t come this far to give up now! I gave myself a pep talk, and with my heart racing a mile a minute, I marched out… She was bent over in her garden tending to the tomato bushes. I approached gently, waving hello, but she ignored me. I said it again, louder, making it clear I had no intention of leaving. She approached the fence, her face showing zero sign of neighbourly warmth. I used my new skills and told her my situation. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t recite all the damning stories in my head. I simply stated my feelings and needs. Surely she would be reasonable, I thought. … but she refused to collaborate. She said her dogs need to go outside at that time, and there was nothing she could do. I couldn’t believe it. How could she be so cold? I was vulnerable and open and friendly. This isn’t supposed to go this way! I was furious inside. And I was about to walk away, but I decided to try a new skill I had just learned: state my intentions and my desired identity. So I said, I don’t want to have trouble with you. I want to be a good neighbour and have a friendly, neighbourly relationship with you. Immediately her body relaxed, and she relented. She would find a solution that worked for both of us. Success!! It worked!! I calmly walked to my house, closed the door, and ran around my living room fist pumping the air. I was ecstatic. I faced my fears and stood up for myself. ​ • • • ​ As I honed my skills and practiced standing up for myself, I began to develop more confidence. I was able to stand up for my needs and make my desires known. I was unlocking a superpower. I was slowly building a deeper trust and appreciation for myself, something I’ve always struggled with. And I was learning a powerful lesson… Communication is not about using language to get what you want. It’s not about skills. It’s so much more than that. It’s about confidence and self-worth. Because in order to communicate your needs, you need to believe you’re worthy of having them met. If you don’t have that internal belief, no amount of skills are going to help you. But the amazing thing is, that by learning to communicate effectively, we can use the skills to create that internal belief. We can practice standing up for ourselves and develop our confidence and worthiness. ​ ​ • • • ​ That’s what was happening to me, and this new confidence infused other areas of my life. I finally started to go after the business I actually wanted, which I’d been struggling with for years. I’ve been able to have tough conversations with my parents. I’ve been more vulnerable with friends. I’ve learned to not be a victim and take responsibility for my feelings and needs. It’s been a game-changer for me. ​ • • • ​ Am I fully healed? No. I still have to do the work. I still struggle with vulnerability, and I still get anxiety. But I’m so so so much better than I was before. Anxiety comes, but I can deal with it. I can ask for help when I need it. I can stand up for my feelings and needs. I have so much more confidence, safety, and security within myself. And now I want to help others go down a similar journey. I want people to feel confident, safe, and secure within their relationships, and most importantly, within themselves. I hope you come along and take the ride with me! Thanks for taking the time to hear my story 🙂 Dan ​

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