Three Steps to Better Communication
In this post, I will reveal the three things that may be causing dysfunction in your relationships and what to do to reverse them right now.
In my years of working with couples, families, and their kids, I have learned that most of us have common patterns that chip away at our relationships. Three of these patterns are in nearly every relationship that I have guided to repair and reconnect.
It’s no surprise that when disrespect starts creeping into your conversations with your loved ones, things have gone off the rails. Feeling disrespected cuts most of us so deeply that many people associate it with feeling unloved. Disrespect can come in the forms of word choice, tone, volume, sarcasm, body language, attitude, facial expressions, and actions (or lack of actions).
2. Lack of Appreciation
We’ve all felt unappreciated at some point. There are moments we wish we could have received a “thank you” or “nice job” when we didn’t. Feeling taken advantage of or for granted certainly fits into this pattern as well. If you know about Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” and what your natural language(s) is/are, you’ll understand that when your language isn’t spoken often, you definitely feel a lack of appreciation.
3. Self-Centered Attitude
This last pattern makes a person feel like their thoughts, feelings, and experiences don’t matter. When you come across someone who only talks about themselves and forgets to include you in their conversations, you typically feel undervalued or “less than”. Having a self-centered attitude makes it seem like you don’t really care about anyone else. Even if that’s not true, it absolutely gets perceived that way a majority of the time.
So how do you break these common patterns?
1. Cultivate Respect
By choosing to be respectful in how you talk with someone, you choose to have more peaceful and rewarding conversations. Speaking respectfully will allow each of you to be heard and understood way easier. Even if you have a complaint or conflict, being respectful will go much further in helping to resolve the problem. Make sure to infuse your conversations with respect by being kind, slow to anger, speaking in “I” statements, and trying to be mindful and recognize any emotions that are coming up before they become unmanageable. Also, give the person your full, undivided attention when talking. Make eye contact, physically turn towards the person, and don’t be distracted by other things. This will convey respect simply by giving them your attention.
2. Show Appreciation
Even if it’s for something tiny like remembering to turn on the porch light at night or unloading the dishwasher, or large like thanking them for their support during a difficult time, showing appreciation for another person proves that you care about them. Drs. John and Julie Gottman strongly believe that building a culture of appreciation in your relationships by doing and saying small things often helps create more empathy, connection, and love. If you assume the other person knows you appreciate them and their actions but you don’t tell them, that may actually cause damage to the relationship. It’s better to speak up and tell them so they know for sure. The best part is that you’ll see the fruit of your appreciation and may even receive it back.
3. Be Curious
The last pattern breaker is being curious about another person and getting out of your own world. In doing so, you put yourself aside for a moment and actively listen to someone else’s concerns, dreams, and desires. Asking questions to genuinely show interest usually is the quickest way to build connection and effective communication. The general population typically “listens” in order to respond and they are not fully engaged in the other person’s experience or reality. By actively listening and holding on to your response for a moment until the other person is completely understood, you may find that you’ll empathize much better and see the other person’s point of view, therefore avoiding conflict or miscommunication.
Try out these three pattern-breaking steps and comment below what you found most helpful. I’d love your feedback and hope that these simple shifts in communicating will create the relationships that you want and repair the ones that may have started going south.
Christie Sears Thompson, MA, MFTC is a therapist for Trade Winds Therapy & Relationship Coaching in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. She is passionate about helping her clients connect with each other and create strong foundations for healthy and connected relationships. To make an appointment with Christie, please call 720-381-2755 or email tradewindstherapy at gmail dot com.