I don’t have a therapist, but I have a husband, mother, and good friends that I talk to regularly about things that are bothering me. That doesn’t mean it replaces a therapist, but it is super helpful to me. I talked about something that has been bothering me with my very good friend. It helped me to get it out. It helped me that she was listening. It helped me to hear what the bottom line issue is. What is the root of the issue? She said the famous line that I have heard therapists everywhere say, “It all comes down to communication.” If we think about it, every problem that we have tends to be able to be broken down into some sort of communication issue.
- Shutting down and not speaking.
- Not thinking before we speak.
- Talking too much.
- Saying too little.
- Offending someone with our words / being critical.
- Stuffing our feelings and not saying how we feel.
- Not explaining something well.
- Missing details in what we are saying.
- Different communication styles.
- Listening to talk not listening to understand.
- Not putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
- Lack of empathy and understanding.
- Avoiding having the conversation.
- Not finding the time to talk.
- Using text instead of having a conversation.
- Thinking something is resolved that isn’t.
- Being accusatory with “you” statements.
- Making negative assumptions.
- Frequently interrupting instead of fully listening.
- Taking things personally.
I could go on and on in regards to communication issues we have with the people in our lives. I know that I personally tend to feel so many emotions that I will shut down and avoid the person. It’s like I have to regroup and get myself to a place where I’m feeling more emotionally strong. This can make things worse.
Maybe you are the person who avoids conversations. Maybe you take things on as soon as they happen and can come on too strong. Maybe you don’t say what you really want to say because you are afraid of offending the other person. Having the hard conversations is what brings us closer together with people. The people who really care about us and want to be in our lives want to have the hard conversations.
The key here is to evaluate not what your friend, partner, or mother is doing wrong but what you can do to make a difference to have better communication. We only have control over ourselves.
What can I do better:
- When my emotions take over, I can take a deep breath and give myself a minute. I can talk about the issue at hand and not disappear or avoid. I don’t want my emotions to be so strong that I regret what I say. I want to think before I speak, and I want to regroup and have the conversation.
- Have awareness of my emotions getting too strong. When I feel my jaw tense and my heart racing, this is a signal for me that I need space and deep breaths. Become aware of your warning signs. Maybe your palms get sweaty. What is your warning sign that you may need some space, so you don’t say something that you regret? Pay attention next time you get upset as to what your body is doing.
- One of my biggest issues was taking things personally. I’m not going to tell you that I still don’t do this. I’m going to tell you that I’ve made major improvements with this. I realize that everyone has their own stuff that they are dealing with. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe I am triggering something for them. Maybe they are feeling bad about themselves. It isn’t always about us.
- I can focus on using more “I” language and less “you” language. This is something that I think can make a huge difference for all of us. “I feel sad when you are doing five things at once. I would love for you to focus on me when I’m talking to you. That will make me feel more important and heard.”
- I can stop making negative assumptions about things in general. My husband tells me all the time, “You don’t know anything yet.” I often wonder why we don’t make more positive assumptions.”
There is so much each of us can do with our spouse, kids, parents, friends, neighbors so that we can have better communication. Focus on one thing that you think that you can do better this week in regards to how you communicate with people. You will see a big improvement in your interpersonal relationships if you work on how you communicate. We all have strengths and weaknesses in how we talk to people. None of us are perfect and there is always room for growth. I would love to hear what you would like to work on this week.
Laughing, Learning to communicate better and loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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