March 23rd, 2010 at 11:00 pm (Home)
The wonderful thing about my work is that it provides me a rich research ground in which to observe and learn from a huge diversity of cultures and relationships; from the corporate boardroom to the academic classroom, from Western cultures to Eastern contexts and from parental bonds to romantic relationships. A common thread that runs through those different environments is the crucial role communication plays in either a thriving or struggling relationship.
Communication. It is a big word and I shall draw on one very common aspect of it with an extract from “Crucial Conversations”…
When faced with a failed conversation, most of us are quick to blame others. If others would only change, then we’d all live happily ever after…He/she started it. It’s his/her fault, not mine.
When conversations reach a crucial point, many of us quickly change our original objectives to a much less healthy goal: being right. We do this by blaming the other party: “why are you…?”, “you are so…” and “you see! You…”
Many often take it to the extreme with dangerous and negative phrases that start with “you always…” and “you never…” Our self preservation DNA simply does not allow us to stand up to such attacks and it is not surprising that nothing shuts down communications faster than either of those two words.
So what do we do when there is a dialogue breakdown?
Firstly, avoid exaggerated, evaluative or extreme statements toward the other party. Expressions like “always,” “never,” and “every time” will usually just lead to irrelevant discussions related to the use of those words. Those sentences have the exact opposite intent that you want and only makes you a worse communicator.
Secondly, recognise that it is a shared problem. Since the issue is upsetting you, it is your problem (no matter what your partner did that you think caused it in the first place). If you begin by asking or stating what you can do differently or more/less of to help solve the problem before asking your partner to change, you may induce a collaborative situation which is matched by your partner.
Lastly, stop pointing the finger. Masters of communication recognise that more often than not, we do something to contribute to the problems we are experiencing and these masters turn it into the principle “Work on myself first”. As much as others may need to change or we may want them to change, the only person we can continually inspire or change is the person in the mirror.
You never truly love someone until the mere thought of hurting that person is enough to break your own heart.