How to improve your communication skills.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Couple

Good Relationship.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Would better communication improve your relationships?

Communication between people, both verbal communication and nonverbal communication, are the primary ways we build and strengthen a relationship. Communication is a vital part of relationships. Communication has two elements, what you’re communicating and how you’re doing that communication. Good communicators can convey difficult messages in ways that improve the relationship. Poor communication skills can turn even the smallest conflict into a major battle.

When couples come for relationship counseling, they commonly say the problem is communication. Unfortunately, many of them are communicating very effectively, but what they are sharing is all the negative, hostile feelings they have towards their partner. It’s easy to believe that your partner has caused the problems in the relationship. Frequently one or both partners need to look at themselves. For many couples, individual therapy is a prerequisite for effective couples’ therapy.

Improving your communication can facilitate resolving some of these conflicts, but better communication by itself will not make your partner agree with you or change them. First, let’s look at some of the ways that people communicate that increase the number of problems.

Ineffective communication styles can destroy a relationship.

Some communication styles turn every statement into a conflict. Some communication destroys relationships.

Ways to damage communication in a relationship.

Stonewalling destroys communication.

Stonewalling is the process where one or both parties refuse to talk to the other party. Some couples go weeks or even months without ever talking about things. Families may have relatives they haven’t spoken to in years. Stonewalling – refusing to communicate may include walking away while they are talking.

Other harmful styles of communication may result in creating so much pain in your partner that you teach them to withdraw whenever communication gets difficult.

It’s impossible to avoid communicating. Your failure to talk to someone says volumes. This failure to communicate doesn’t solve problems it adds to them.

Criticism – attacking the person rather than asking for change is destructive.

One way people attempt to tackle difficult communication and conflicts is to begin by an all-out attack on the other person. Knock them down and make them give in. Letting your frustration with your partner’s behavior get the better of you and venting all your anger at them isn’t likely to improve the situation. While telling someone what you think of them, venting may feel like a solution at the moment you attack; it now becomes a wound in your partner, which requires them to counterattack or withdraw. Criticism will sabotage your open communication.

Contempt – sarcasm, mocking, put down’s, escalate conflicts.

Belittling someone doesn’t lead to solving the problem. If anything, it pushes the conflict to the breaking point. If you have such a low opinion of someone, why do you have this relationship with them, and why did you start it? Attacking the other person says more about the attacker than the relationship partner.

Defensiveness – taking things as attacks and attacking back undermines communication.

Some people’s responses are all out of proportion to what was said to them. If you take everything your partner says as criticism or attack, you may need to do some work on yourself. People who come from abusive backgrounds, have lived with or grown up around narcissists, develop low self-esteem. Low self-esteem leads to taking any comment as hurtful.

Running away creates distance and destroys intimacy.

For many people in relationships, their go-to way of dealing with uncomfortable topics is to avoid them. When something comes up, they need to talk about; they run away. I’ve seen couples keep this up for decades. Some couples even seem to prefer this way of dealing with problems.

The issues you don’t talk about will continue to get worse, and eventually, they blow up in your face. After years of not dealing with the problems, couples can look at each other and wonder if they have anything in common and any reason to stay together. Lack of communication is not a solution to your communication problems.

Holding on to resentments will poison you and the relationship.

Many people like to hold on to resentments. Their anger keeps them warm at night. While you may not be able to forget something someone did to you, letting go of the resentment benefits you. The need to be right and to make the other person wrong is a corrosive chemical that eats away at your connection.

Not paying attention to your partner sabotages communication.

If the person you’re trying to talk to keeps repeating themselves, it’s likely they don’t believe you are hearing them. One of the best ways to improve communication is to listen to what they’re saying and try to figure out what they mean. Double-check if you’ve gotten their message correctly. Don’t waste your time in a conversation planning what you’re going to say in reply. Most of us humans can’t listen and understand what someone is saying while rehearsing what we are going to say in response at the same time. Failure to understand what they meant leaves you arguing about things they didn’t say and didn’t mean.

Don’t assume you know what they’re talking about.

Jumping to conclusions can sabotage communications. Ask meaningful questions. Make sure you understand their point before you reply.

Don’t over speak, interrupt, or start talking before they finished.

Not only is this rude, but it tells the party talking to you don’t care what they have to say. If you can be patient and listen longer, they may say something useful.

Accept silence as part of a conversation.

Some people are very uncomfortable with silence. Don’t expect your partner to have an instant answer to everything you say. Sometimes a little silence is a good thing. Ask yourself during the silence if your partner has stopped talking to you, or do they need some time to think it over? Things said in anger often damage the relationship, and if you give yourself some time to think of the right way to say something, you can improve communication.

Don’t cross-examine your partner.

Cross-examination should be reserved for the courtroom. You can ask for explanations, but if you are asking questions trying to trip them up and get them to tell you the truth, your relationship is already in serious trouble. Work on making your communication safe, and your partner will tell you a lot more. If you don’t trust them, you probably shouldn’t be in this relationship.

Planning communication, when not together improves relationships.

When you’re apart for any length of time, include communication as part of your relationship maintenance. Set a time for phone calls and have rules for when you will text and whether your partner will respond to all your texts.

More tips on improving communication will be found at – Communication.

 

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

5 Ways to Sabotage Open Communication.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Talking to yourself

Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

5 steps to destroy communication.

Are your actions destroying communication between you and the important people in your life? When things are going wrong between people the way we respond to these conflicts either opens up the communication or it can kill the relationship. You may be responding to communication conflicts by doing exactly the things that destroy what little communication has been going on.

Do you wish you had better communication with the important people in your life? Whether it is with a partner, your family, or the people at work, communication destroying behaviors will make your life more difficult. These communication destroyers come up repeatedly in couples counseling. Once you adopt these ways of handling conflicts they can carry over into the rest of your life and damage all your relationships.

Here are some ways that you may be damaging communication with the important people in your life.

When communication is bad you leave.

Repeatedly leaving when communication is difficult damages or even destroys the ability to communicate. For effective communication, you need to keep working on things even when they are difficult or uncomfortable. Running away from conflict may seem the easy way out at the time but progressively the communication deteriorates.

Communication avoiders may leave physically, walk down the hall, head for the other room or even leave the place altogether. Some people avoid the hard conversations by checking out mentally. They stop listening altogether.

If one of you finds that you are becoming overheated or triggered, you may need to call a timeout and take a break from this conversation. Be careful that repeated timeouts do not become a way of avoiding conflicts. When taking a timeout be sure to let the other person know that you will return later to finish this conversation. Try to plan a mutually agreed upon time-out signal beforehand.

You stonewall to keep the communication from getting through.

When people get angry, hurt or resentful it makes sense to them in the moment to cut off communication with the person they see as the cause of their pain. Eventually, this builds walls and leaves you isolated. Cutting off communication does not make the relationship less painful, it leaves you living in pain all alone.

When the conflicts arise, emotionally healthy people, find ways to work through their conflicts and hurts without walling themselves off from others. Work on making this wall removal part of your relationship maintenance. If you lack the skills to take down walls or to solve problems without the walls, consider working with a professional counselor to develop more open and congruent communication.

When the communication gets uncomfortable do you attack?

The saying that a good offense is the best defense does not work in relationships. You can’t prevent pain and hurt by hurting your partner, friends or family. In the moment pulling out all the faults of the other person to rub their nose in them may seem like a way to win the disagreement.

This initial reaction, to try to protect yourself by inflicting pain, is unproductive in a close intimate relationship. In other settings, work and friendships, this behavior may cost you the friend or even the job.

You are feeling hurt so you hurt them back.

When in the heat of battle, do you go for the jugular? Trying to inflict the maximum of pain on your adversaries makes little sense if you ever hope to get close and intimate with that person again. Hurts are cumulative. Add enough of them and the relationship fails.

Being able to absorb some emotional pain and still stay focused on what you see as good in your relationship is a skill that will make your relationship whether a severe storm.

If you have left a trail of wrecked relationships, with friends, family, co-workers, and lovers, take a look at the way you communicate. Have you inflicted a lot of needless pain in an effort to even the score for the pain others have caused you? Has that two-person pain made you happier?

You go along but save up the resentment for a rainy day.

Are you the one who goes along with your partner in the moment and says nothing all the while accumulating your resentments for use at a later date? We call this human characteristic “gunny sacking” a process of holding on to resentments, tucking them away in a gunny sack and then let the least little thing go wrong and you will dump the whole list of past grievances on the other person.

Gunny sacking is a common practice in couples but it extends to all manner of other relationships. In friendships and work environments this accumulation of grievances can poison the place you spend your time and leave you the sicker for it.

Have you been practicing these communications killers? If so it may be time to decide to work on your relationships. Have that talk with your partner, family, friends or important others in your life. See if you can improve the communication between you two. It may be time to seek the services of a professional counselor, couples or marriage therapist.

Communication improvement can be best done when the two people with the conflict can sit in the room and work together on the issues. But if you can’t get them to counseling the counselor can still help you change the way you communicate and the result will be that the other person will need to change in response.

Are you ready to improve your communication?

You can find more posts about Relationships and Couples therapy at:

Relationships

Couples Therapy

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Avoiding confusion and misunderstandings

Avoiding confusion and misunderstandings
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do misunderstandings and confusion harm your relationships?

Misunderstandings can damage relationships at home and at work. If your life and relationships are plagued with misunderstandings, people misunderstand you or they say you misunderstand them, there are ways you can improve communications. These examples apply mostly to the office or work setting but the same principles apply at home and in your personal relationships.

Asking lots of questions reduces misunderstandings.

Rather than jumping to a conclusion based on a few statements, ask questions. Often as you get more information you will discover that the other person left out important details. They may not have been trying to lie or mislead you, they just did not know that you did not have part of the information.

When someone uses the word “hot” do they mean a warm temperature or do they mean very desirable? If they talk about plans to go somewhere do they intend to go there today or next month or after they retire?

Many misunderstandings are the result of bits of information that were left out.

Check out your understandings to avoid confusion.

When someone says we are all going, who is all? Does that include Mary? And Bob? What if Mary and Bob just broke up, does the speaker still want them both invited? Does the person you are talking with know about that break-up?

The other person may assume you know what they know or that you are thinking about the same place they are. Ever show up for a meeting and find that the person who called the meeting had a different location in mind but failed to convey that information?

Precise language makes things clearer.

Fuzzy language leads to misunderstandings. Strive to fill in the details. Things like “and stuff” and “you know what I mean” leave a lot of room for serious misunderstandings.

How big is big? If we need a lot of paper is that one ream, or 100 reams? If your partner says to not let the kids do something is that today or ever? Should you tell them no or are you expected to hold them down and stop them?

Put it down in writing to get it right.

A saying in many offices is that “if it is not down in writing than it didn’t happen.” Documenting things avoids misunderstandings. This is especially important if there is money involved or someone is doing something now and the other person will do something else later. When is later?

Successful meetings usually have minutes. Deciding who will do what works better if it is written down and everyone gets a copy of the minutes. More than once we have done that only to find that not everyone was in agreement. I thought one person was in charge and someone else thought they were in charge of that activity.

Just because I said we needed to do something did not mean that I planned to be the one to do it.

Written lists are important in your home life as well as your work one. Give kids more than one thing to do and they tend to forget the second and third things. Written chore lists help avoid forgetting.

When I am going to the store I make a written list. Otherwise, I get one ingredient but forget something else and need to make a second trip. This becomes more problematic when someone else needs to do the shopping for me.

Check back during the process to keep the communication working.

If things will take time to get accomplished it is wise to check back as the project progresses. Things change. The person who said they would do something may have gotten sick or discovered they had too many other things to do.

Checking in as things progress lets plans be adjusted. Better to change plans than to spend a lot of time at the end on whose fault it is that something did not get done or was done wrong.

Double and triple check your facts for reduced misunderstandings.

Sometimes that thing you were sure you knew turns out to not be true. Recheck dates, times, names, and costs. Get those facts right.

Sunday your family member says that there is an important meeting “next Monday” Does that mean tomorrow or a week from tomorrow. I know purists have ways of telling you the correct way to say things, but does it matter who was right when you show up for an event on the wrong day? Recheck the facts and avoid the misunderstandings.

Make your yes’s yes and no’s no.

Sometimes people say yes to acknowledge that they heard the speaker. They may be agreeing that so and so said that, but not agreeing to the truth of the statement or that they will do as requested. No may mean that the statement was not accurate rather than that they were opposed to the goal.

Do not say yes or no unless that is what you mean. When others say yes or no check what they are agreeing with or disagree with.

Don’t take things personally.

People may say things about others’ behavior. They have in mind a particular behavior and a particular person. They may not have you in mind at all.

Do not assume that people are knowledgeable about your needs or tastes.

Keep things simple.

The longer the statement the more time there is for there to be confusion and misunderstanding. Long explanations rather than making things clearer often make them harder to understand. For clearest communication use short simple sentences. Check that people are following what you say as you go.

Many misunderstandings are the result of a long conversation with few pauses which leave the listener with a different message than was intended. The less the person you are talking to knows about your topic the simpler the explanation needs to be. This is especially important in communicating with younger children and those with some emotional or mental disabilities or cognitive impairments.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track, and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead. The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.