I have a confession to make. For someone who majored in “Communications”…I’m not very good at it. Actually, I’m a LOT better at it than I used to be…but let’s just say it’s still not my strongest suit. But I’m not talking about the kind of communications I studied in college…I’m talking RELATIONSHIP (or interpersonal) communication. Some of the most difficult and frustrating communication you will ever participate in.
For the past several weeks I have been working on the book that I have been promising all of you. It’s taking longer than I ever imagined it would, so I apologize for that. But rest assured I am going as fast as I possibly can and I promise to keep you updated!
Anyway, as I am writing, and taking trips down memory lane, I have had to face the fact that many of the most difficult experiences I’ve had in my relationships have come from a lack of communication. Thankfully the hubster and I are a lot better about effectively communicating than we used to be….but there’s ALWAYS room for improvement.
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I came across this article at Psychology Today that I thought had such great insight into the things that make us POOR communicators, I really felt compelled to share it today. There are countless articles out there about how to be BETTER communicators…but not many that point out the things we are doing wrong. The good news is that once we become aware of these poor habits, we can change the way we communicate, and improve our relationships. :-)
The Four Characteristics of Poor Communication –
1. “You” Language
Ineffective communication is often characterized by the use of “you” language, such as “you are…,” “you should…,” “you need to…,” “you have to…,” “you’d better…,” and “you people…”.
Some examples include:
“You are not good enough…”
“You should pay attention…”
“You better get it right…”
Most people don’t like being told what to do…I know I DON’T! As a matter of fact, telling me what to do is almost a sure fire way to make sure I WON’T do it! :-)
When we use this kind of language it’s easy to see why people get angry or defensive.
2. Universal Statements
Universal statements negatively generalize a person’s behavior, and are often used in combination with “you” language.
“You always leave the toilet seat up.”
“You never put the tooth paste cap back on.”
“You are so lazy!”
Universal statements cause problems in a couple of ways:
First, there is no possibility of the listener being any other way. The is no room for change.
Second, universals point out “what is wrong,” instead of “how to be better,” and actually discourage change. Amen!
3. Tough on the person, soft on the issue
Effective communicators know how to separate the issue from the person, and be soft on the person and tough on the issue.
Ineffective communicators will do the opposite. They are tough on the person, while ignoring the issue.
Ineffective communication: “You are so stupid!”
Effective communication: “You’re a smart person, and what you did this morning was not very smart.”
Ineffective communication: “You never clean up. You’re a slob!”
Effective communication: “I noticed that you didn’t wash the dishes this week.”
You may have noticed the use of “and” instead of “but” in two of the examples above.
- “But” discounts the significance of what is said before and puts the real meaning of the sentence on what comes after.
- “And” places equal emphasis on both what is said before and after.
I think this is such a key insight into the way we talk to one another! Definitely need to work on the “but” & “and” words!
4. Invalidation of Feelings
Invalidation of feelings occurs when we belittle, ignore or negatively judge people.
“You’re blowing things way out of proportion.”
“You are completely over-reacting!”
When we invalidate another person’s feelings, it causes instant resentment, and that person may shut down from you emotionally, so that her/his feelings will not be hurt again. Boy oh boy….can I relate to that!
Invalidation of feelings is one of the most destructive things one can do in close, personal relationships. It is one of the main reasons why “fall outs” occur between friends, family and people in intimate relationships.
Yes, I put the above paragraph in BOLD & ITALIC letters because I think it’s SO important. If there’s only ONE thing you remember from this post today….I hope it’s that statement.
Consequences of Poor Communication
People usually respond to poor communication in one of three ways called the three “F”s: fight, flight, or freeze.
- Fighting can mean anything from holding on to the need to be right, staying stuck in your anger, or yelling, and screaming.
- Fleeing (flight) doesn’t only mean running away physically. It most often manifests as withdrawing emotionally to protect yourself so you won’t have to speak or feel painful feelings and emotions.
- Freezing means getting stuck and not being able to move from the impasse of the situation because we don’t know what to do next. Because of this, we stay stuck right where we are in situations we are unhappy with.
GOOD communication is one of the most integral aspects of any relationship. It requires work, patience, and selflessness on the part of BOTH people involved, but I sincerely believe it is our best bet for achieving long-lasting happiness! And who doesn’t want that!? :-)