Blocks to Communication – Part II

In last week’s blog, we discussed five ways you could be blocking healthy communication in your relationships. The ability to communicate in a healthy way can make a difference in how productive your conversations are! Whether you are having a discussion with your child, a disagreement with your partner, or a chat with your brother, your communication skills come into play. Below are a few more ways you may be blocking healthy communication. 

Being Distracted

In our world today, with a constant spiral of distractions circling around us, no wonder it is easy to lose focus while communicating with others. It is beneficial to actively ignore distractions during conversations. Put your phone down, mute the television, pause your game, and for bonus points, make eye contact. Actively avoiding distractions not only affords you the opportunity to truly engage in the conversation, but it also lets the other person know you think what they are saying is important (and that feels good!)

Giving Unsolicited Advice

Have you ever wanted to just vent about something, just to get it out? Or maybe you had something happen during your day that you wanted to share with someone you trust. When the conversation turns to problem-solving or advice-giving when your intention was to just share, the focus shifts. There are two important things to think about here, one for the speaker and one for the listener. First, it is beneficial for the listener to recognize when this shift happens and attempt to pull back. Pause your own thoughts for a moment and allow the speaker to continue leading the conversation. Second, if the speaker notices the conversation shifting to advise giving or problem-solving and that is not what they want, the speaker can gently let the listener know that they appreciate their help, but at this moment, they were just wanting to share.

Focus on Being Right

There are times when the focus of a conversation is completely lost because of the need to be right in a situation. This is tiresome and unproductive and can lead to even more negativity and anger from both people. What is the worst that can happen if you let the other person be right? Letting go of your own agenda of being right does not mean that you agree with them. Finding at least a small part of what the other person is saying that you can understand or even agree with can be beneficial as well. Saying things like “I can see how you would think that” or “you might be right, let me think about it” can help soften both people, creating room for the conversation to be more productive and less hurtful.

Using The Four Horsemen

According to the Gottman Institute, there are four very important things to avoid during the conflict, and in any conversation. The first one is criticism. When people criticize, they are displaying harsh, blaming, or hurtful words of judgment or disapproval. When we feel criticized, we typically get defensive, which is the second of the Four Horsemen. This is where we deflect our own responsibility for what is going on, refusing to accept feedback and making excuses for our behaviors or shifting the blame to the other person. The third Horsemen is contempt. This happens when one person shows anger, disgust, or hostility toward the other person by using insults, acting superior, or mocking them.  The last Horsemen is stonewalling. Stonewalling is where one person shuts down during the conversation. This can happen by going silent, withdrawing, or refusing to respond. Using one or all of the Four Horsemen blocks your ability to have a healthy, productive conversation.

Lack of Engagement

There are many ways you can let the speaker know you are listening and that you think what they are saying is important. One way is to show them you are engaged by asking a healthy amount of questions. This shows curiosity and desire to know and understand. Another way to actively show you are engaged in the conversation is through your body language. Turning toward the person, nodding your head, and making eye contact are great ways to use your body to say you are listening. Also, paraphrasing and repeating back what you hear can not only help clarify things but can also show the speaker that you are truly listening and understanding what they are trying to get across. 

If you are experiencing blocks to healthy communication and would like help, please give Tx Harmony Counseling Center a call today at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.

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Natalie Wilie, LPC

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