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. It is easy to fall into the trap of using an unhealthy communication style that prevents you from connecting with the other person in a healthy way. Unhealthy communication not only blocks your ability to connect, but it can also be hurtful.
Communication involves a speaker and a listener. Both roles are equally important. There is quite a bit of information out there on how to be a good listener, which is very valuable. However, the importance of being an effective speaker is often overlooked. The way we approach a conversation, our tone, the words we choose, and our body language all play a part in how productive the conversation is.
Below are a few suggestions of things that might be blocking you from communicating in a healthy way, taking into consideration both the speaker and the listener.
Research shows that the first few minutes of a conversation determine how the rest of the conversation will go. If you start a conversation with blame, negativity, or contempt, chances are the other person will get defensive. This typically inhibits their ability to gain a good understanding of what you are trying to express, therefore making the conversation unproductive and possibly hurtful.
When needing to have a conversation with someone, consider timing. If you are choosing to have difficult conversations with your partner right before bed and it does not seem to be going well, try a different time of day. If you need to talk about a tricky topic with your teen, choose a time that will be good for both of you. Timing is important. Of course, there may not be a perfect time, just do your best to find a good time and be flexible if you end up needing to postpone the conversation because of timing.
Typically, when we feel blamed in a situation, we get defensive. And we know how unproductive that is. One way to keep blame out of your conversation is to use “I” Statements. This is where you talk about yourself and how you feel about the situation or behaviors rather than keeping the focus on the other person and their wrongdoing. Try statements like “I feel (emotion word) when…” Gently describe how the other person’s actions affect you. For example, you could use a statement like, “I feel worried if you don’t text me once you arrive.” This statement would be received in a more positive, healthy way as opposed to using blaming verbiage.
You are not a mind reader. Often, we think that we know what the other person is thinking and feeling. This could influence our response to the conversation. Yes, we start to recognize patterns of thinking and behaving but assuming that the conversation you are in is going to be exactly the same does not give the other person the opportunity to respond differently.
Evaluating the other person and what they are saying rather than listening to understand their point of view is often very unproductive and hurtful. We are all individuals with differing views on things. That’s what makes us unique. Different is just that… different. When we use all or nothing thinking, where what we think to be true is the only way, our way is right and their way is wrong, we close ourselves off to other’s points of view. Try to see where the other person is coming from. Being curious and seeking understanding is way more productive than judgment.
If you would like to learn more about blocks within healthy communication, give Tx Harmony Counseling a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here. For part two of Blocks to Healthy Communication, click here!