We all hear about practicing healthier communication, why the skills are so important to having better relationships, but if you’re just learning about the more subtle and insidious ways we don’t connect well, where do you start? How do you do it differently – for real? I think it IS about splitting hairs, and getting down into the seemingly little things we can do without realizing the big impacts. The bottom line is to practice emotional honesty, keep the focus on you where it belongs, and own your thoughts and feelings. And oh yeah, your behavior too. Here are the most common ways we try to connect but fail:
Defensiveness. Denying what the other person is trying to tell you about you. “That’s crap. I’ve only been late a few times. Oh, so you’re perfect and never late?”
Do This Instead: Be vulnerable. If they’re not just lashing out just to be nasty, and they are using I statements, being direct yet kind, the best thing is to show understanding, and use connecting words. “Hey I hear you, and you’re right. I do struggle with being on time, and it really stresses me out. I know it must feel disrespectful. I will work harder at being on time from here on.”
Talking Vague. “I think there are issues in my relationship” He says to the counselor…
Do This Instead: Be Specific. “I think I struggle with his defensiveness and how he doesn’t tell me everything. I usually have to bug him or find out the hard way later…” This statement quickly identifies the actual issues the speaker his having. Bring it back to you. Not saying things like “You know how when you get up in the morning…” Rather: “When I get up in the morning it’s hard to get moving.”
You Statements: “You always dismiss what I say.” Putting the onus on them feels safer at first, but it only pushes others away, makes you look less than mature, and doesn’t get to the real issue here which is YOUR hurt.
Do This Instead: Keep What’s Yours About You. “I feel dismissed when you do that, and I’d like you to show me you are hearing me.”
Shaming Statements: “Can’t you ever be on time? You’ve made this whole family show up late.” Or “When will you ever get it?” So critical – and aimed at their person instead of the behavior that is changeable.
Do This Instead: “I need you to be on time. It’s not fair to keep everyone waiting so next time if you’re not ready we will need to leave without you.”
The bottom line is to make sure what you are saying is true for you, the focus is on you, and allow the other to take responsibility for themselves as well. Practice. A lot. You will get better. And you will begin to notice better connections too.