Communication shutdown leads to fear of the unknown, confusion, guilt, anger, sadness, feelings of isolation and breakdown of trust.
Upsets often come from misunderstandings, and only communication will help those.
Guarded communication won't help.
Incomplete communication leads to assumptions, and assumptions are more powerful than facts, because they're loaded with emotions.
A rule of thumb for communication is: "I feel ______ because ______. I want ______. Are you willing to do that? What do you want?"
Here are some examples:
(1) "I feel angry because I feel like you're attacking me. I feel that because you deliberately wake me up in the middle of the nights by banging the cupboard doors. I want you to be quiet at night so I can sleep. Are you willing to do that? What do you want?"
(2) "I feel scared because I'm afraid you're abandoning me. I think that because you're spending less time with me and you don't call me sweetie anymore. I want to know honestly from you what's going on. I want reassurance that you still love me. Are you willing to do that? What do you need?"
(3) "I feel sad because you ended our relationship a month ago. I lost something that I wanted very much. I want to continue as friends, since there's much of value in our relationship. Are you willing to do that? What do you want?"
(4) "I feel happy because our relationship is going well. I enjoyed the walk we took yesterday. I feel close to you, and I feel like the trust between us is growing. I'd like our relationship to keep getting better. Isn't this great?"
Basic communication skills:
Listening means actively paying attention. Rather than thinking about other things or what you'll say next. Being sincerely interested in the other person.
Empathy means paraphrasing, saying back in your own words what the other person is conveying to you.
People feel heard when do that. Check with: "Is that what you're saying?" A good rule of thumb for empathy is, "You feel _____ because/when ____."
Questions are for clarification and challenge.
Summarizing conveys more than the facts. Feelings and attitudes are summarized as well.
Advanced communication skills:
Making "I" rather than "you" statements: A "you" statement is one that puts ownership of the ideas or feelings on someone other than the speaker. An "I" statement is one in which the speaker owns the thoughts and feelings. "You" statements escalate an argument, defend from feelings we don't want, and distance ourselves from uncomfortable ideas.
"I" statements communicate clearly, and de-escalate arguments. They can be scary and risky. It's forbidden in American society to own fear, sadness and anger. One can be ridiculed and hurt for doing so. They can also be powerful and effective at creating communication and closeness.
Here are some examples. "You're a wonderful person" versus "I like you." "You talk too much" versus "I'm bored." "You make me mad" versus "I feel angry." "You're a slob" versus "I don't like cleaning up after you." "You never listen to me" versus "I feel ignored."
Being specific: Instead of "I didn't like how disrespectful you were," try, "I didn't like that you were yelling."
Keeping it simple and clear: The longer you go on, the more likely you are to lose the other person. Don't repeat yourself or talk longer than they do. Instead of "I was looking through over the bills, and as I was balancing the checkbook, I realized that first I had to sort through that pile over there. While I was looking through that pile, I discovered an old unopened bill I had never seen" try, "I found an unopened bill."
Doing one thing at a time: Stay on one topic till it's resolved. Bringing up other issues will distract and confuse.
Describing feelings: Explain your feelings by naming, simile, figure of speech or action urge. Naming: "I feel embarrassed." Simile: "I feel lower than a squid on the bottom of the ocean." Figure of speech: "I was hit with a ton of bricks." Action urge: "I feel like hugging you."
Perception checking: Describe what you think the other person's inner state is in order to find out whether you're actually understanding. "You look like you feel hurt. Do you?" "You seem to be feeling more at home now?"
Spaciousness: Give the other person room to talk and ask questions, participate. Learn rather than teach.
Lightness: Be humorous, and make little jokes.
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