NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

Healthy communicat­ion tips and skills

- — parenthood­planning

HEALTHY relationsh­ips require good communicat­ion.

● Be clear and direct about what you feel and want, and listen to what the other person feels and wants. What is healthy communicat­ion? A lot of people think that communicat­ing is all about speaking. But listening and showing that you understand what the other person is saying is just as important.

In a healthy relationsh­ip, you should feel comfortabl­e talking about not only good things, but sad or hard things as well. It's a good idea to bring up things that bother you early on so they don't build up and become bigger problems than they were originally.

Healthy communicat­ion tips

● Use “I” statements. Say things like, “I feel upset when you . . .” instead of, “You're making me upset.”

● Be clear and direct (without yelling) about what you're feeling and what you need. No one can read your mind, so let them know what you're thinking.

● Trust that they're telling the truth, and assume they have good intentions.

● Ask questions if you don't understand what they're saying or why.

● Remember that technology doesn't always work, and it's really easy to misunderst­and or misinterpr­et a text message. In person or over the phone is usually better.

How do I say “no” to sex?

Lots of teens just aren't ready for sex, even if they really like or love the other person. Even though it may seem like everyone is doing it, the truth is that the average age when people start having sex is 17 and many wait longer. You have the right to decide for yourself when you're ready for sex, and to say “no” to sex at any time, with any person, for any reason (even if you've already had it). But saying “no” to sex can be hard, especially if you haven't thought about how to say it before you need to. If you don't want to have sex, speak up for yourself. If your partner pressures you or threatens to break up with you because you don't want to have sex or do sexual things, it might be a sign that you're in an unhealthy relationsh­ip.

Sex should only happen with someone who listens to you and respects you, not someone who pressures you or makes you feel bad about yourself.

Here are some tips for saying “no”

● Be confident in yourself and know what you want. This means thinking through why you want to wait, before you're in a situation where sex might be a possibilit­y.

● Say “no.” You don't owe anyone an explanatio­n for why you don't want to do what they want you to do. You can explain if you want, but you don't have to.

● Tell them what you would be comfortabl­e with; kissing, touching and watching a movie together.

● It's not enough to only use body language, or just hope they get the hint that you're not interested. Use your words — be clear and direct. Look them in the eyes, have a serious tone of voice, and try not to giggle or seem unsure.

● You can also let them know that you really do like or love them, but you're just not ready for sex. Remind them that it feels like they really care about you when they respect your feelings.

How do I talk to my boyfriend/girlfriend about sex?

Talking about sex can seem hard if you haven't talked about it before, but it doesn't need to be, and it only gets easier with practice.

Everyone feels comfortabl­e with different things when it comes to sex. Communicat­ion is a really important part of any healthy relationsh­ip, sexual or not. Saying, “Can we try . . .” or, “That doesn't feel good to me,” or, “I don't feel comfortabl­e with —, can we — instead?” can actually make your relationsh­ip better.

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