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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.