As a marriage counselor, one of the most common problems for a couple is the inability to effectively communicate. Often, a past problem has not been resolved because of the lack of communication, and the small hill of a problem grows into a mountain. Lack of effective communication not only causes problems for married couples, but also has hurt relationships such as employer and employee, parent and child, brother and sister and any other relationship.
What are some keys to effective communication? Here are 7 keys to help you become an effective communicator.
- Be honest, direct and compassionate. Sometimes individuals are brutally honest, and pat themselves on the back for speaking directly, yet their comment created more damage than if they would have said nothing. For example, the spouse asks, “How do you like my outfit?” The partner says, “You look fat in that outfit.” Big mistake. A better approach is to say; “You look ok, yet you look better in the other outfit.”
- Avoid name-calling. Practice speaking with respect, and avoid using any names that are degrading, disrespectful or hurtful. This includes comments like, “You’re just like your crazy mother.”
- Stay focused on the one issue. Often a conversation will get diverted and lost in surrounding problems, and move off the present problem. If you are discussing that you are upset because your friend forgot to call you, don’t bring up how forgetful your friend is with other people, and how lazy she is, and how unmotivated and self centered. Stay focused on the present issue that you are hurt that you friend forgot to call you.
- Describe the Specific Behavior and express how it impacted you. Avoid making general statement like, “You are always late.” Use the specific behavior such as, “You said that you would be home for 6:00pm, and you arrive home at 7:30pm, and I am upset.”
- Avoid Resentment Build Up. Resentment or internalize emotional pain is the great destroyer of relationships. Do not allow resentments, hurts or anger get momentum inside. They will eventually come out, and often times in a destructive way. Learn to release your resentments and free up your heart.
- Express Appreciation. Remember to see and express appreciation for behaviors that you like. Most people want to satisfy people who are important to them. When you express appreciation, it makes the other person want to do the behavior again. Human beings respond much better to praise than criticism.
- Have a Voice. Don’t lose your voice in any relationship. When you lose your voice, you lose your power. No relationship works well when one person does not have any power.
Effective communication is not always easy, yet the alternative of poor communication is much harder in the long run. Follow these simple guidelines, and enjoy the benefits of effective communication.
Dean Sunseri, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge, LA. He specializes in Individual Counseling, Marriage Counseling and Family Counseling. He is the co-author of the book, A Roadmap to the Soul. He can be contacted at 225-290-7252.