Being able to communicate in an effective manner is one of the most important skills that a person can have. When we communicate effectively, we are understood and progress can take place when we are able to clearly articulate our needs and get along with others. Empathy also goes a long way to cementing happy long lasting relationships. The problem with communication is that it is a two way street. You can be the most effective communicator of all time but if you are up against someone who cannot communicate effectively or who doesn’t want to communicate, you are rendered pretty useless when it comes to co-operation, positive resolution and sharing. It’s still worth knowing how to communicate as well as you can to promote chances of happy relationships across the board.
Counterproductive and Ineffective communication
There are many ways in which we engage in ineffective communication and shut down a conversation or block another person from expressing their needs. Here are a few examples:
No acknowledgement of communication occurs. The conversation is completely overlooked or the recipient pretends they did not hear you.
This can happen in various ways, either by changing the subject or by repeating the same response such as, “Okay, okay, okay” to everything you say. This is infuriating, patronising and doesn’t help communication in the slightest. This is also very damaging for a relationship as it invalidates the other person’s feelings.
Blocking also takes place when the conversation is limited or not allowed to continue. Examples:
“I am busy, not right now”.
“You always want to talk”.
“We spoke about this already”.
The above remarks leave no acknowledgement of the needs of the person requesting communication. When communication is scuppered, resentment and anger develop and they eat away at any feelings of love that exist. Ineffective communications slowly destroys relationships.
“Please don’t come home so late without phoning me” (a reasonable request)
“You didn’t get in touch last week when you were delayed at work”.
This technique creates underlying resentment because the source of the problem is never dealt with. Instead a blame game ensues leaving both parties annoyed and with no resolution as to how to move forward to the satisfaction of both concerned.
Using too many “you…” statements can come across as aggressive and will often result in the other person putting up defensive barriers.
“You are so negative..”
“You moan all the time..”
“You never do this…”
“You always do this…”
“you” statements are not effective and won’t get you anywhere. Try this instead…”When you…I feel..so what I would prefer you to do in the future is…” This is known as assertive script and leads to a win-win situation rather than a blaming match that will only lead to you destroying each other, or at the very least, destroying each other’s belongings!
“I feel unimportant as you spend more time at work than you do with me” Reasonable statement
“No I don’t” or “That’s not true”. Undermining reply. Even if a person does not agree with something someone tells them, it is still important to try understand why the other person has said this and what can be done to resolve this.
Communication can make or break a relationship and I would go so far as to say that problems in communication are the number one reason why couples come to see me for help. Are you meeting in the middle and connecting, understanding and empathising with each other or is your communication more like missiles that keep missing their target?
Tips to communicate better:
Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes instead of trying to push your version of the situation upon them. People don’t always think alike and it is important to try to understand where your partner is coming from.
Try not to jump to conclusions or take things personally. Instead, see the conversation as an opportunity to improve your relationships and understand each other.
Accept another perspective
There is always room for more than one version of events. Be open minded.
Keep conversation open and flowing
Try not to block or shut down communication. It is the life-line to a happy close relationship. Embrace heart-to-heart talks as platforms to move to a higher, happier and more contented level in your relationship.
Look at your own behaviour in a relationship and be as rational and reasonable as possible when dealing with an irate spouse. Of course there are exceptions to this – for instance when you are in a relationship with an abusive partner. These types can never be pleased and are consistently unreasonable – that’s a losing game. If, however, you are both reasonable mature adults, there is always hope to salvage the relationship by honing your communication and empathy skills.