Louann Hillesland, MA, LPC
We’ve all experienced the frustration of having someone fail to listen to us. Instead they read the paper, or watch TV. Then there’s Jim who refuses to hear anything except what he wants to hear. Or Jane, who expects us to know exactly what she needs without asking. We may want Jane to get her needs met but we have to be mind readers. Roger refuses to allow us to change and Eve puts up barriers of hostility, and biting sarcasm.
Of course, it’s not always the other person who builds the communication blocks. Remember when you were so busy planning your response that you didn’t try to understand the other person? Maybe you were feeling defensive, so you silently rehearsed an attack instead of listening.
It’s amazing that we understand one another at all with the number of barriers that snag the meaning of our communications. Communication is arguably one of the most important ingredients for successful relationships. Yet many of us have blocks that make effective communication difficult. The blocks may be small hurdles or huge blockades, but any obstructions can damage your communication and your relationships. What can we do to blow-up the barricades and improve communication? First off, realize that you can only change your own communication style, not everyone else’s. But if you make changes, others may make changes, too.
Here are some pointers for getting past those barriers.
1. Wait until it’s a good time for the other person to listen, face the person and make eye contact.
2. Repeat what the other person says in your own words. They will know that they’ve been heard, and you’ll be working to understand what they’re saying. This will cut down on rehearsing your response.
3. Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. ‘You’ statements create defensiveness and guarantee a blockade.
4. Match what you are saying with your expression and your actions. If you’re angry, don’t smile and act sweet, that’s just creepy.
5. Practice being assertive about getting your needs met before you get angry or feel used. Don’t corral those feelings inside, then blow-up because your needs aren’t being met. That’s not fair to you or others.
6. Most difficult, but most important: if you really want to understand the other person, put yourself into the other person’s frame of reference. Imagine that you had all the same experiences and perceptions and listen from their viewpoint.
Lastly, enjoy the intimacy that you created by blowing up communication barricades.
For expert relationship help call Louann Hillesland, MA, LPCat Counseling Connection, llc, 303-721-0005. See Home Page for 50% off your initial consultation.