communication

Learn how to communicate more effectively with others.

October 2017

Coping with political differences with family and friends

2017-10-10T14:06:09+00:00October 9th, 2017|communication, relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Coping with political differences with family and friends

I have been listening to Brené Brown’s new book “Braving the Wilderness”. I like to listen to Brené rather than read her books. They just resonate more for me that way. She talks a lot about relationships in this time of turmoil in our country. She believes that talking to others that are different from us is a good thing. Many of us are in opinion tunnels where we only spend time with people that have beliefs like us. I am going, to be honest; I am struggling with what I am hearing her say. One the one hand I do believe that being around people that are different from us is good for us. We all should be exposed to diversity in people it makes our lives richer. On the other hand, I struggle to be close to people that support things that I find abhorrent.

Right now the country feels as divided as I have ever seen it in my life. Talking about politics with everyone I know never seemed important to me. Now it all feels so critical. It literally feels like lives are on the line and I truly do not understand people that have such different views than I. Brené says we should be curious and respectful and I agree with that. At the same time when I have tried to do that I often feel very attacked from the get-go. And I will admit I do not respond well to that.

Recently I tried to dialogue with a friend about a political issue and was just immediately shut down. What would Brené say to do next? I am not sure. I suspect she would say keep trying to be vulnerable and authentic when I can. I believe she would also say it is also okay to set boundaries if people cannot respond in kind.

What I can do now is to keep trying to dialogue with people that are willing to do so. I am also trying very hard to be very mindful of kindness in my daily life. I try to go out of my way to be nice to those I know need it right now. That is what I feel capable of doing to counter the negativity that is going on. I will also continue to challenge my self to do more. Let me know in the comments how you are coping with this.

Brené’s book link is found below. This is an affiliate link so if you click through I get a small commission.

 

Photo Copyright: jjesadaphorn / 123RF Stock Photo

January 2012

Follow-up on Communications Blockers with some tips on Active Listening

2017-03-25T23:08:07+00:00January 19th, 2012|communication, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I recently posted on Communication Blockers.  I was asked if I could offer alternative suggestions for each communication blocker.  The original explanation is in italics.  Many of these blockers are used as a passive way to disengage from the conversation. I recommend that if you do not want to have a conversation that you take responsibility for that and communicate it directly. 
 
Interrupting
The alternative to interrupting is to listen.  Often we get caught up in trying to defend our position rather than listen.  This can lead to interrupting.  Try to listen to what the person says in its entirety.  That doesn’t mean you have to agree, but to hear it. 
When you interrupt you do not allow the other person to tell their side which indicates that you are not interested in what they are saying.
 
Ignoring
If you are going to ignore someone you don’t want to be talking to them.  You should be honest and state that you are not going to be part of the conversation. 
If you ignore the other person you are totally disengaged from the communication process
 
Sarcasm
Sarcasm is often used as a way to disregard what a person is saying.  People will often try to than say that they “were just kidding”.  It is a passive way to disregard people.  It is also a way that negative feelings towards someone are expressed in a more passive manner.   
Sarcasm shows a lack of respect for what the other person is saying
 
Accusing/Blaming
When accusing and blaming happens it often is bringing up old issues.  It is never fair to bring up old issues.  If problems continuously are brought up than there is never any healing and the communication can never go forward.  You should also be sure not to use “you” statements.  Whenever you start a statement with “you: it almost always is taken as an attack.  Use “I” statements instead. 
If you blame or accuse the other person you are not giving them a chance to explain their side of the conflict. 
 
 
Insulting/Name-Calling/Threatening
If you feel like you need to insult, threaten, or call a person names you should not be communicating with them at all.
Making personal attacks is not just counterproductive but also abusive.
 
All or Nothing
Keep communication focused on what the current issue.  Do not generalize as it is rarely true that someone does something all the time or never.  If it is true than a different dialogue needs to occur on what the obstacles are that keep a person from making a shift.  Alternatively it may be time to accept that something will not change with the other person so instead you must make a change.
This is when you generalize person’s behavior to they “always” do something or “never” do something.
 
Stating Opinion as Fact
Facts are facts, opinions are our interpretations. Just because we believe something is factual does not mean that everyone has the same belief. 
We are each entitled to our opinions but that doesn’t make them facts. 

Expecting Mind-Reading
I see this often with couples.  One person expects the other to predict what their need and meet that need without them saying anything.  This is quite unfair.  We each need to take responsibility for stating our needs. 
Sometimes we expect that people should know what we are thinking.  This is unfair to others.  We must take responsibility for communicating our thoughts and feelings. 
 
Pat Reassurances
Some things that happen are not okay, to say that they are or that things will just get better can be very invalidating.  If you can’t say anything else just listen actively.  This can also be when you say someone is right when you do not really believe it just to end the conversation.
If you try and reassure someone without really listening it seems as if you don’t take the situation seriously.  Remember most people just want to be listened to, not for you to solve their problems.
 
Changing the Subject
If you do not want to discuss something be honest and own it rather than being passive and just changing the subject.
This shows that you are not interested in what the other person is saying. 
 

Now that you know the ways you aren’t listening you can work on how to listen actively.  

 
How do we show that we are listening actively?
Body language: Our body language shows a lot about how engaged we are in a conversation.  If our body language is open than we are more likely to be open. 
Acknowledgement:  You want to acknowledge that you heard what the other person said.  You can nod, say um hum, or use one of the techniques listed below. 
Here are some other techniques to show that you are listening. 
Repeating: repeating back to a person what they said exactly
Paraphrasing: repeating back what a person said in your own words
Reflecting:  reflecting back to the person your thoughts on what they said in your own words
It is important to remember that acknowledging a persons thoughts or feelings doesn’t mean you agree with them.  Many communication problems start when one person refuses to acknowledge what the other person said because they disagree.  Most people can accept a disagreement but get upset when they do not feel heard. 

Communication is a process and and a skill.  It takes effort but can make a difference in a relationship.

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Communication Blockers

2017-03-25T23:08:07+00:00January 17th, 2012|communication, relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

In a recent blog post I talked about dealing with difficult people.  As a follow-up I am writing some posts about communication skills.  I will start by reviewing communication blockers.  These are all the things we do when we are not willing to communicate directly with another person. 
This is a list of ways in which we may block communication from occurring.  If we are not listening fully than we are not engaged with the other person.  Take a look at the list and see what blockers you use. 
Interrupting
When you interrupt you do not allow the other person to tell their side which indicates that you are not interested in what they are saying.
Ignoring
If you ignore the other person you are totally disengaged from the communication process.
Sarcasm
Sarcasm shows a lack of respect for what the other person is saying
Accusing/Blaming
If you blame or accuse the other person you are not giving them a chance to explain their side of the conflict. 
Insulting/Name-Calling/Threatening
Making personal attacks is not just counterproductive but also abusive.
All or Nothing
This is when you generalize person’s behavior to they “always” do something or “never” do something.
Stating Opinion as Fact
We are each entitled to our opinions but that doesn’t make them facts. 
Expecting Mind-Reading
Sometimes we expect that people should know what we are thinking.  This is unfair to others.  We must take responsibility for communicating our thoughts and feelings. 
Pat Reassurances
If you try and reassure someone without really listening it seems as if you don’t take the situation seriously.  Remember most people just want to be listened to, not for you to solve their problems.
Changing the Subject
This shows that you are not interested in what the other person is saying.
Now that you know what you are doing to block conversation you can move forward to improving your communication skills.   I find that many of the communication blockers arise because someone gets more focused on being right than on being engaged.  I would suggest that if you cannot be fully engaged in your conversation that you work on scheduling it for another time when you can be fully present. 
The resource I cited in the footnotes has more extensive handouts on the topic of communication. 

 


http://www.clemson.edu/fyd/Assets/Adobe_Acrobat_files/bfs_communication.pdf

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