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.

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Ways to fight fair

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

Couple not talking

Unhappy relationship.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The way you argue makes or breaks relationships.

Sooner or later people in close relationships end up disagreeing and that leads to fights. By fights, I am talking about arguments not episodes of physical violence. What happens during and after those disagreements determines the fate of the relationship.

Pile up a lot of arguments and your relationships suffer. Whether you win or lose those disagreements the residual ill feelings can do permanent damage to that connection.

One disagreement trap people fall into is to think that when the fight occurs they need to win the argument at any cost. Sometimes you win this one little battle but the rest of your relationship becomes an entrenched war.

Using unfair fighting tactics can result in two losers and no winners. Make sure that the tactic you use in your discussions with your partner are fair ones that do not leave the relationship in ruins afterward.

Here are some ways to disagree constructively that may help you argue without destroying your relationship.

1. Accept that it is OK to disagree.

The majority of things couples fight about have no solution. You like Coke and they like Pepsi. They insist on supporting and voting for the wrong party. Chances are you won’t change them.

Some things like politics, religion, preferred beverages, and music have no solution. You disagree, you argue, you fight, you hurt each other and the relationship.

If you two like to talk about these subjects, all is well. But if you continue to insist that your partner needs to change their opinion to suit you, then you are headed for trouble.

Learn to accept that not everyone in life has to agree with you, especially your partner or close friends and enjoy the things you do have in common.

If there are absolute must-haves in this opinion area you should check this out before you get into a hard to get out of relationship.

Live and let live if you want a good relationship.

2. Only argue about things for which there is a solution.

Do not argue about the other’s family. They can’t change that and your insisting that they came from a defective background is hurtful. Skip the fight about your and their music choices. Work instead on way to manage these preferences.

Can one of you list to music wearing headphones? Can you set limits on certain types of entertainment?  Can you agree that when you are both in the living room together this is a music free zone?

3. Solve the problem not destroy the other person.

When fighting stay on topic. Leave the hurtful comment bombs unused. Way too many people think that the way to win the argument is to pull out the zingers and to say something to make that other person really hurt.

Those favorite destructive weapons get used over and over. Hurt the other person enough and there will be no life left in that relationship.

Fair fighting – the kind that helps relationships grow not leaves them demolished, should never include personal attacks and deliberate infliction of pain.

4. Look for a win-win solution.

We used to call this compromise and people got the impression that what we meant was you win one time so to be fair you need to lose next time. Trading off on winning and losing is not a healthy way to manage conflict.

Say you want to go out this Friday and they want to stay home. Both of you are insisting that the other do what you do. One solution to this might be that you each do your preferred activity and then you plan some time another day to do something together.

Be careful of hidden agendas in attempting to select Win-win solutions. Is the person who wants them to stay home trying to cut their partner off from family or friends they do not like? Is the person who always wants to go out still trying to act single and do a lot of drugs and alcohol?

Focus the disagreement not on the differences, but on the feelings. Why does one of you feel anxious or threatened when the other insists on a certain activity.

5. Listen to understand not to refute.

One major thing we work on in marriage counseling is not how to express yourself, most people can yell their point across. The missing skill is often listening.

Frequently the two people are not even arguing about the same topic. When one person is talking the other is thinking of what they will say in response. Often they are way off base because what they think the other person is saying is not what they meant.

When the other person is talking, try to get, not just the words they are saying, but the feelings behind those statements. Are they saying that something is scaring them or frustrating them? How can you help them feel safe or reduce their frustration?

6. Respect the other person’s feelings.

Do not dismiss feelings. If something scares your partner do not tell them they should not feel scared just because you do not get that feeling in a given situation.

Each person is a unique individual. Some people are born more at risk for anxiety or depression. Other people have had sad or frightening experiences.

Work to understand what they are feeling and how sights, sounds or actions may be triggers for them. Reduce the negative aspects of the situation and you may find a place where you can agree.

Make sure you also acknowledge your feelings and own what you feel. The other person may not be feeling what you feel.

7. Admit when you are wrong.

This does not automatically mean you lost the argument. Being able and willing to admit when you are wrong creates space for the other person to admit their mistakes also.

If you are wrong do not keep arguing about why you came to that conclusion. End the fight and move on. It is OK or should be, for either of you to sometimes be wrong. Life is about having new experiences and you will never know how each action will turn out.

8. Make repair efforts after the fight.

Arguments, disagreements and even loud fights can occur in almost any relationship. Try to minimize the conflict by believing that the other person really does want to get along.

If you are really convinced that they want to harm you, think about how to change or end this relationship.

People who survive fights and go on to have good stronger relationship make frequent repair efforts. They apologize after a fight. They truly try to change and avoid unnecessary conflict. When there has been damage done they can apologize and try to make things better in the future.

Happy couples have fewer fights, have more positive interactions and make frequent efforts to repair any damage to that relationship as soon as possible.

How might learning to fight fair help make your relationship a better one?

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.

Criticizing, complaining and asking for change.

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

Talking to yourself

Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Criticizing, complaining and asking for change.

Communication skills part 3.

When something bugs us what should we do? When we are unhappy we are likely to react in one of a very few ways. Will you say nothing, become angry or take a middle road and try to talk about the issue?

Some people say nothing and suffer in silence. For those people, we recommend assertiveness training. If you do nothing about a problem then you become part of the mechanism perpetuation the problem not part of the solution.

Some people react to annoyances by becoming angry and acting out. Even if the violent approach works in the short run it is likely to result in long-term undesirable consequences. An excessive response to a problem may wind up in you having to do an Anger Management class, going to jail or permanently damaging the relationship.

In between is the “let’s talk about it” approach. Some ways of talking with the other person are more effective than others.

Criticizing is not communication.

Criticizing is the method most often used and least likely to be helpful. This method attacks the other person. You call them names for not doing what you think they should. Statements get made like “you don’t respect me, you are a slob or other personal attacks.

Criticizing does not make any friends. When we are criticized we are likely to become defensive and reply with our list of all the things the other has done. Criticize someone too often and they may stop listening altogether.

Criticizing cuts off communication rather than improving it or getting things to change.

Complaining does not help communication.

Complaining involves talking about how the issue is affecting you.  While a slight improvement over criticizing it rarely gets anything to change.

This is a recurring behavior in work settings where people complain about how they have to too much to do and saying other do not help and so on. It can become the standard operating procedure in some settings.

People who work as professionals in a complaint department know, or should know, the importance of listening to the customer’s complaint. Until the person feels their complaint has been heard nothing much is likely to happen to resolve that complaint. But eventually, the process needs to move beyond complaining.

Some relationship skill building programs suggest combining the complaining behavior with the next step, problem-solving or asking for change. While complaining may be a way to tell the other person what is upsetting you, moving to the next step and stating the specifics you want to change is most likely to improve the situation.

Asking for change improves communication.

Of all the ways of dealing with problems, this is the most likely to improve the situation despite seeming to be the hardest thing to do.

Use good problem-solving skills. Ask for change and stay on the problem and how to solve it. The greatest chance for an improvement is to find a solution in which both parties win rather than a win-lose situation. There needs to be genuine two-way communication, hearing and being heard.

Making things better.

Make sure that when you have a problem with another person that you avoid the name calling and the personal attacks.

Clearly, state the problem as you see it. Ask for specific changes such as not interrupting you when you speak rather than global things like being nicer.

Listen while the other person describes how they see the problem. Work towards understanding their point of view. Look for a solution that meets both of your needs.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest        

Criticism, complaining, asking for change.

How are your communication skills? Are you criticizing, complaining or asking for change?

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.

Just being honest – 5 times telling the truth is a bad thing

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

Telling the truth.

Truth.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Not all “truth” is created equal – Communication Skills part 2.

As children most of us were taught we should always tell the truth, even when we knew the adults around us were not being truthful. In relationship counseling, we spend a lot of time on communications but improving communication does not always improve the relationship.

People who say they are “just telling the truth” find that their relationships suffer. Truth and honesty can build trust in a relationship but there are times when telling the truth can be both harmful and misleading.

Some people can say the most hurtful things, only to excuse what they have said by reporting “I am just being truthful.” People who use the truth defense are usually not so very receptive to having their partner reply with similar truths.

While telling the truth is a very desirable characteristic here are sometimes when the truth may damage relationships and may not be the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

When your version of truth is an exaggeration.

Common statements, especially during arguments are “You always – You never, you are totally.”

Categorical statements are rarely, if ever, true. This way of saying things is meant to put the other person down and is criticism for criticism’s sake.

Criticism is a way of being hurtful and may cause permanent damage to the relationship. You don’t get to do this and then play the “I was only being truthful” card.

When you say it out of anger the truth is you are angry.

Things said out of anger are meant to hurt. Even if you avoid the exaggeration trap you are likely to say things laced with sarcasm and personal attacks. “Truths,” said in anger, are going to damage not improve the relationship.

Having hurt the other person they have no incentive to work on changing anything. When you are saying things in anger you are lashing out not looking for constructive resolution. Even if the statements were true, when you are full of anger, this is not the time to have that frank talk.

The truth-telling was all about you.

Sometimes “being honest” is about pointing out all the possible flaws in the other person in order to make yourself feel better about you.

Being honest is one thing, but there is no reason to blurt out every single defect you see in the other person. No one needs or wants that much honesty all at once. Think about the purpose behind telling someone the things you see wrong with them.

Is your honesty really about helping them improve or is it coming from a place of selfishness on your part. Honesty like meals needs to be spaced out over time as the need arises.

If you really want to be helpful talk only about as much of the person’s faults as they are ready to hear. Be sure you are not just doing these things to make yourself feel superior.

If the Honesty talk is all about the other person’s faults and you are not ready to own any of the faults this is not real honesty.

You can’t sleep at night or have an emotional hangover after truth-telling.

If after a binge of “ruthless honesty” you find you are unable to sleep at night. If you are emotionally drained for a while after the conversation then you might be experiencing an emotional hangover.

Telling someone off, like drinking too much, may feel good at the time but it is likely to come with the cost of an emotional hangover.

If you find you regret what you have said after an episode of “being honest” You know that the reason is the damage that what you said has caused to the relationship.

Excess of negative emotions, especially anger and fear will lead you to do things while emotional that you may regret afterward.

“It was true” may be a defense in a court of law but it will not make for happy relationships.

The other person is not ready to hear it – you need to use compassion.

Yelling at the deaf and showing pictures to the blind don’t aid communication. Telling someone more truth than they are ready to hear is only going to harm your relationship.

If you really want to end the relationship you don’t need to catalog the other person’s faults to justify your decision.

Remember to practice your compassion skill first and the honesty will have a place to grow when needed.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest        

Criticism, complaining, asking for change

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three 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.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Communication is not what you think

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

Talking to yourself

Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Why communication is not getting you anywhere.

Ever feel like “We just can communicate?” Ever say that? The old standby in counseling, especially relationship counseling, is to teach people to be better communicators. Usually, the clients are disappointed with the results.

Everyone communicates all the time. If someone gives you the cold shoulder you know what that means, right? The stone wall and the icy silence speak more than words could ever say.

Fact is, it really is impossible to not communicate. Most of us are pretty good at communicating angry, hurtful messages. It is the happy, helpful messages that get lost between people.

The problem lies in what people mean when they say they can’t communicate.

Most of the time people who say they can’t communicate mean one or more of the following things, sometimes all of them.

The other person does not do what you want them to.

Good communication does not mean the other person will give in and do what you want. Improving your communications skills will not suddenly have you winning all the arguments. What it might do is increase the chances you could have a discussion with the other person and you could find a solution to a problem that works for both of you.

If there are fundamental differences in what you want or believe, better communication is not likely to change one of you. What it will do is to help you understand why the other person thinks and feels the way they do. But after all that understanding you two may still not find a way to agree.

Religious differences are a common example of this. You may think communication about your beliefs will change the other person. Occasionally it does. Most of the time this conversation highlights how we put off these conversations as long as possible and then get disappointed when the other person does not come around to our way of thinking.

They don’t like the message they are receiving.

Lots of communication is sabotaged by having so many negative messages included in the communication no one in their right mind would want to listen to this conversation.

Verbally beating your partner up and then excusing that behavior in the name of “communicating” is guaranteed to result in more problems down the line. Just being Honest is no excuse for deliberately hurting someone else and it is not a communication style that is likely to improve a relationship.

Communication is all about the way in which we send and the other person understands the message. If there is an underlying message of “you are no good” or some other negative evaluation, improving communication will likely lead to a realization that the real problem is not the communication but the feelings behind it.

There are immense differences between Criticism, complaining, asking for change. If what you are hearing about yourself from the other person is hurtful, it is hard to hear much else.

They never hear anything good.

We tell parents that they need to “catch their children doing something right.” The principle applies to adults also.

If the only messages we hear are negative, we tune out. The surest way to reduce communication is to only communicate when there is a negative message. A constant stream of negative messages makes the other person stop trying. There is such a thing as “learned helplessness.” When you begin to think that no matter what you do it will never be good enough you stop trying.

Good communication includes small talk.

Human relationships are built by time together, positive time. It is not in the huge weighty matters that relationships are built but in the small day-to-day conversations where you come to know the other person.

Small talk is not a waste of time. It is one way to make relationships closer and more intimate. We grow fond of others not because they are of the correct political party or have the correct view of the world but because we share common interests.

Take time to talk about the colors and textures of life. The best communication comes when you are able to open yourself up and talk about who you really are as a person way down inside.

Communicate to the other person that they are important enough for you to want to spend time with them. Try to do this without the distraction of other activities that need to be done. Make sure that your time together is not one where you divide your attention between the other person and the T. V. or a computer.

What do you think? As always comments are welcome. Look for more posts on communication and relationships skills in the near future.

More on communication skills can be found at:

Communication is not what you think

Just being Honest 

Criticism, complaining, asking for change

How are your relationships, how are your communication skills and for you are the two related?

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.