Having successful relationships not only requires mastering communication skills, it also requires being aware of what not to do or say.In fact, if you can remember the “NO NO’s”, you are already well on your way to a successful relationship. Some of these “don’t-even-go-there” expressions may be well known, others may be new to you.
By taking an oppositional position, you only listen with the intent to argue and disagree. Rather than listening to the other person, you are disagreeing with everything he/she says. If the oppositional stance is habitual and happens frequently, your relationship is in trouble. The oppositional partner has no own opinion or own ground to stand on. He or she only defines what he/she likes, dislikes, believes, and values in opposition to his/her partner.
For many couples the contest of who is ‘right’ is a common past time. The problem with being right is that it implies the other person is wrong. Things are seen black and white. All the different shades of other possibilities in between are getting lost. Rather than addressing what underlies people’s disagreement, they fight vehemently to ‘be right’, justifying their actions and behaviours, and placing blame at the partner’s feet.
A very common block to communication is blaming the partner for being the cause of your feelings. “You make me angry”, “you give me headache”, are some examples most people can relate to. If your partner’s actions have hurt you, it is understandable that you blame their partner for your negative feelings – even if that is wrong. Nobody is responsible for your feelings but you. They are not caused by an outside force, but by your (right or wrong) perceptions of the incident, and how your internal cognitive processes evaluated the incident in question. If you blame your partner, he/she will most likely start justifying or defending their behaviour, rather than responding to the hurt that you might have felt that led to you blaming him/her.
Collecting grievances and bringing them up as ammunition at a later time is another block to resolving confrontation or conflict. What happened in the past can not be useful for dealing with a current issue. Although you might still be hurting about an event in the past, nothing is gained by bringing it up again – other than your partner becoming defensive. You will need to take responsibility for your part in the past incident. Certainly, you have to take responsibility for not pushing for the resolution of the incident there and then. You need to let it go, and use the past experience to teach you that resolving conflict immediately is vital for every relationship.
Cause and Effect Thinking
People often make links between events or ideas and assume that one thing inevitably causes or means the other. This is a serious cognitive error! For example: “She is always yelling at me, she doesn’t like me” or “You forgot my birthday, you don’t care about me”. Making these very common links needs challenging because IT AINT NECESSARILY SO! Everyone has experienced yelling at someone they liked and forgotten a birthday of a person they cared about. So an appropriate challenge for such misguided linking is: “have you ever yelled at someone you loved”?
When you find yourself daydreaming as you listen to your partner, you have stopped listening and engage in your own fantasy world. It is a troubling sign of loss of connection between you and your partner, and could indicate that you are avoiding a specific issue or contact altogether. Reflect on the reasons for you to daydream. Explore why you lost interest with what your partner was telling you, and then use active listening skills to address the issue. For example: you could be resentful with the time she spends with friends, you could be critical with him for having the same complaints about his work situation and wished he would take action.
People usually deflect by either changing the topic or making a joke when the conversation becomes uncomfortable or too personal. This prevents intimacy by indicating to the partner that what is being discussed is not important or not interesting. Often the person who deflects misses the partner’s concern and/or care. A moment of real connection and a meaningful interaction is missed.
This concludes the first part of 'What not to do' in communication. Read also Part Two!