Fibromyalgia is often referred to as an invisible illness. If something is invisible, other people are not able to use one of their most important communications senses (vision) to help them understand the situation. This is why verbal communication is even more important in the case of fibromyalgia. People with the illness may not have the normal recognizable signs and visual cues to let others know what they are feeling.
Counting on your verbal communication skills to express your feelings is important so that others will understand. If people with fibromyalgia learn how to communicate in a way that connects them to the significant people in their lives, they will ensure that both parties’ needs are being met. This will improve the dynamics of your relationships and establish a good system of communication.
Good communication can be a way to help reduce anxiety, minimize anger, and pro· mote positive and supportive interaction. Both speaking and listening are part of good communication.
Be sure that what you are saying is…
♦ Truly what you are feeling.
♦ Direct and easily understood.
♦ Worth listening to.
♦ Respectful of yourself and who you are speaking to
Because communication takes place on several levels, it is important to understand that what you say and how you say it are part of the communication process. You communicate your feelings through words and gestures. Your family, friends, health-care professionals, and others interpret every aspect of your communication, which influences how they react to you.
For example, if you say, “You need to understand how tired I am today,” in a soft, explanatory voice while touching your husband’s hand, this communicates that you are requesting his understanding. On the other hand, if you say “You need to understand how tired I am today!” in a frustrated, loud, angry voice, while walking out of the room, the effect is going to be completely different.
In the first example, you are saying that you are tired, but you are also telling your husband that it’s not his fault. You are communicating that you would very much appreciate his understanding and that you trust him to accept what you are saying. Then he will know what you are trying to communicate is important. In the second example, the actions speak more loudly than the words. Your husband might interpret your loud, angry voice as “she feels I have done something wrong and that is why she is acting hostile toward me.”
By walking away after making that comment, you prevent further communication from taking place and indicate the other person’s opinion does not count. When expressing yourself, listen to what you are saying, notice your body language, consider the tone of your voice, and think about whether you are being considerate of the receiver’s feelings and needs.
Remember these important elements of communication and evaluate their appropriateness
to the situation:
♦ Body language ♦ Eye contact
♦ Voice quality and intonation ♦ Rhythm and pacing of words
♦ Sincerity of manner ♦ Directness
♦ Response to expressions of emotion ♦ Self-confidence
♦ Setting, time, and place ♦ Sensitivity to others’ feelings
♦ Clarity of message