When dealing with addiction it is hard not to focus on the other person’s behavior. We view their behavior as a problem view them as a source of the problem, and as a result communicate with them in ways that are unproductive and unhealthy. Lets discuss some of the characteristics of BAD communication (David Burns 1988):
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So, you may want to ask yourself about what is GOOD communication all about? Dr.
- disarming technique is about finding some truth in what the other person is saying , even if you feel they are all wrong
- empathy is about putting yourself in the shoes of another person and either paraphrasing what they just said, or acknowledging what and how they may be feeling
- inquiry; asking gentle probing questions to learn more about how the other person is feeling or thinking
Self Expression Skills:
- “I feel” statements: starting the sentence with “I” instead of “you” (“I feel really upset right now” vs “You are making me angry”)
- stroking which is finding something genuinely positive about the other person
Disarming Technique: the idea behind this technique is that there is almost always some truth to what a person is saying. Consider this statement: “I will never be able to lose weight”. The disarming technique may look something like this: “You have a right to feel that way. Loosing weight may be a difficult. It is not easy to make changes.”
Another example would be when your husband says to you: “You are too emotional. You always blow things out of proportions!”
Your response may be: ” You are right. I often overreact in situations.”
Empathy: there are two kinds of empathy: thought empathy and feeling empathy. These are about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to understand what they are thinking or feeling.
Thought empathy is about repeating out-loud what a person just said to see if you got their point, or asking a question to see if you got it right. The goal is to genuinely understand where the person is coming from & understand the meaning behind the words. It is not a time to argue or discuss your own point of view.
Feeling empathy is not about agreeing or disagreeing with a person. It is about understanding and acknowledging how they feel. This is not an easy thing to do as it is only natural for us to want to defend ourselves or lash out, and fight back, especially if we are in the middle of a heated discussion. Examples of feeling empathy are: “It sounds like you are really upset with me” ” Let me see if I am getting this right, you feel that I am provoking you?”
Inquiry: gentle, probing questions to learn more about what the other person is thinking/feeling. Asking them to tell you more, to elaborate, to explain, to help you understand. It is very hard for people to explain how they are feeling, or sometimes they don’t want to admit to feeling angry, hurt or disappointed. Most people are afraid of anger and conflict. By inquiring, you offer the person an invitation to tell you how things are for them, and to put all the cards on the table.
The three listening skills: inquiry, empathy and disarming capture the essence of effective listening, however, these skills are rare not only in regular relationships, but also in relationships with professionals, counselors and doctors. Responding to anther person with empathy is hard especially when you feel frustrated, upset or angry.
There is this so very important question that we need to ask ourselves: Do we want to be right or do we want to be happy?“
When we scream, yell, argue and defend ourselves and our positions, we often find that it fuels an argument and infuriate the other person. If you don’t want to be involved in war of wills, and no-win arguments, you may choose to follow these techniques, and begin a new and different way of communicating with your loved-one.
How about self-expression?
Here are two self-expression skills you may choose to use to have a better communication and relationship with your spouse. The first skill is to use ” I statements”. These are statements that let others know how you are feeling, and give others opportunity to deal with what’s bothering you. I statements are about expressing your thoughts and feelings to anther. The feelings could be negative (angry, coerced, misunderstood), or vulnerable (such as rejected, sad, hurt).
Examples of “I statements”:
- I feel sad
- I feel disappointed
- I feel unloved
- I feel attacked
- I feel misunderstood
- I feel uncomfortable
Once you state how you feel, there is nothing wrong with communicating your wishes and desires:
- ” I would like you to try to understand my point of view”
- “I would like to give me some time to explain”
- “I really want to work this out with you