Re: How to communicate effectively-- need advice
Conflict Resolution Mistakes To Avoid
Conventional wisdom (and research) says that good communication can improve relationships dramatically, increasing intimacy, trust, respect and support. The converse is also true: poor communication can weaken bonds, creating mistrust. Here are some examples of negative and even destructive attitudes and communication patterns that can exacerbate conflict in a relationship. How many of these sound like something you have done?
Can you see how easy this is to turn around?
1. Avoiding Conflict Altogether:
Rather than discussing building frustrations in a calm, respectful manner, sometimes we just don’t say anything until we’re ready to explode, and then blurt it out in an angry way. This seems to be the less stressful route—avoiding an argument altogether—but usually causes more stress to both parties, as tensions rise, resentments fester, and a much bigger argument eventually results. It's much healthier to address and resolve conflicts as they arise.
2. Being Defensive:
Rather than addressing a partner’s complaints with an objective eye and willingness to understand the other person’s point of view, defensive people steadfastly deny any wrongdoing and work hard to avoid looking at themselves and the possibility that they could be contributing to a problem. Denying responsibility may seem to alleviate stress in the short run, but creates long-term problems when partners don’t feel listened to and unresolved conflicts and continue to grow.
When something happens that they don’t like, some blow it out of proportion by making sweeping generalizations. Avoid starting sentences with, “You always…” and “You never…”, as in, “You always come home late!” or “You never do what I want to do!” Stop and think about whether or not this is really true. Also, don’t bring up past conflicts to throw the discussion off-topic and stir up more negativity. This stands in the way of true conflict resolution, and increases the level of conflict.
4. Being Right:
It’s damaging to decide that there’s a ‘right’ way to look at things and a ‘wrong’ way to look at things, and that your way of seeing things is right. Don’t demand that your partner see things the same way, and don’t take it as a personal attack if they have a different opinion. Look for a compromise by finding the ‘right’ in both sides, and remember that there’s not always a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’, and that two points of view can both be valid and respected.
5. "Psychoanalyzing" / Mind-Reading:
Instead of asking about their partner’s thoughts and feelings, people sometimes decide that they ‘know’ what their partners are thinking and feeling based only on faulty interpretations of their actions—and always assume it’s negative! (For example, deciding a late mate doesn’t care enough to be on time, or that a tired partner is denying sex out of passive-aggressiveness.) This creates hostility and misunderstandings. As well, don’t think your partner IS a mind-reader. Be honest with what you need from them and ask if it is something they can do - and what can YOU do to help.
6. Forgetting to Listen:
This is a big one! Some people roll their eyes, over-exaggerate a sigh when they don’t like what they hear, interrupt, blow their partners concerns off and rehearse what they’re going to say next instead of truly listening and attempting to understand their partner. This keeps you from seeing their point of view, and keeps your partner from wanting to see yours! Don’t underestimate the importance of really listening and empathizing with the other person!
7. Playing the Blame Game:
Some people handle conflict by criticizing and blaming the other person for the situation. They see admitting any weakness on their own part as a weakening of their credibility, and avoid it at all costs, and even try to shame them for being ‘at fault’. Instead, try to view conflict as an opportunity to analyze the situation objectively, assess the needs of both parties and come up with a solution that helps you both.
8. Trying to ‘Win’ The Argument:
I love it when Dr. Phil says that if people are focused on ‘winning’ the argument, “the relationship loses”! The point of a relationship discussion should be mutual understanding and coming to an agreement or resolution that respects everyone’s needs. If you’re making a case for how wrong the other person is, discounting their feelings, and staying stuck in your point of view, your focused in the wrong direction!
9. Making Character Attacks:
Sometimes people take any negative action from a partner and blow it up into a personality flaw. (For example, if a husband leaves his socks lying around, looking it as a character flaw and label him ‘inconsiderate and lazy’, or, if a woman wants to discuss a problem with the relationship, labeling her ‘needy’, ‘controlling’ or ‘too demanding’.) This creates negative perceptions on both sides. It’s very important to remember to respect the person, even if you don’t like the behavior.
When one partner wants to discuss troubling issues, sometimes people defensively stonewall, or refuse to talk or listen to their partner. This shows disrespect and, in certain situations, even contempt, while at the same time letting the underlying conflict grow. Stonewalling solves nothing and leaves the other partner unsure of what to do. It’s much better to listen and discuss things in a respectful manner.