Poor communications and a dirty dozen

Poor communications and a dirty dozen

originally published in Chinese

Poor communications exist in all kind of interpersonal relationships. Especially between parents and children, spouses, and friends. These poor communications often lead to negative emotions and conflicts, and even affect the willingness of both parties to continue communication, and even worsen the interpersonal relationship. I remember that when I was in junior high school, I was young and reckless. It was easy for me to get conflicts with my parents. The family dramas were always ended with me rushing to the room and door slamming. Now I don’t remember why I argued with my parents, but I guess it is probably caused by the way we communicated.

It’s like a meme. A girl with tears in her eyes gets angry at her boyfriend. The boyfriend asks in wonder, “Did I say something wrong?” The girlfriend said, “It wasn’t the words you said that hurt me. It’s the way you say the words! ” We, who are originally well-intentioned, often use the inappropriate way to express what we want to say, which was counterproductive.

The following is a dozen dirty sorted out by scholars. These are not really words for swearing. It is just that these communication have negative impacts on relationships. Do we often use these ways of speaking and somehow end up with poor communication? It’s worth asking ourselves.

  1. Threats: Like “If you fail the exam again, I will cancel the Internet service at home.” This sounds familiar. Many parents and teachers use this method to talk to their children, but if you turn the words into ” XX(please insert the name here), if you choose to continue doing…, it means you choose you are not going to…”, the sentence is all about the same thing but it will make people feel a lot better.
  2. Evaluative praise: Manipulate someone’s behavior through the form of praise. For example: “Only children with good grades are the best.”
  3. Criticizing: Some constructive criticisms are needed if they can help the other person see his/her blind spots. And this kind of confronting is necessary and acceptable sometimes. But if this is not done properly, it will upset others. It is easy to become a situation like this: the child said, “Mom, I could get an A on the exam today, but I accidentally filled in the wrong answer so I didn’t get an A.” Mom: “That’s how you are! Careless! how is it possible that you can get an A!” The child did not get an ideal results on the exam because of his carelessness. He has learned a lesson from this experience. He may want to get encouragement from his mother but gets scolded. Then he might not want to discuss with his mother anymore if he has any setbacks in the future.
  4.  Command: ask others to obey oneself, do what they want. Parents and teachers sometimes make some demands on their children. I personally think that it is understandable, but if today is a peer-to-peer relationship or a love relationship, saying orders will make people feel disrespectful.
  5. Changing the subject: This obviously makes others feel that what they are trying to say is not taken seriously by you.
  6. Giving advices: “Just do this and do that!” We often feel that the reason why people around us tell us about their troubles is to solve the problems. Out of a caring intention we want to help them solve the problem, we will quickly tell them what we think is feasible and they should stick with it. But in fact, this is not necessarily a good plan. Like in the past when I took courses in personal and group counseling at university, the professor often reminded us “Don’t give advice.” Helpers should not give advice, and members participating in group counseling should not give each other advice. Giving advice sounds very pragmatic, but it makes people feel that we consider ourselves to be experts, and we also ignore the person’s other concerns and feelings.
  7. Using logic to argue with others or teach others: This is very similar to giving advices. When we do this, we also ignore others’ feelings and concerns.
  8. Preaching: Preaching or telling the other person what to do and what not to do when someone needs your support is like telling the cold truth, For example: “There is no other way. Taking exams is stressful to everyone. Everyone is stressed out, you are not the only one who’s under pressure. Just study hard!” Doing this is equivalent to throwing the social norms that everyone knows to the person. But no one wants to get an answer like this when we want to be comforted by the people who are close to us. Such an answer just asks the person to swallow his/her emotions, but it is really not a good way to comfort someone.
  9. Naming and labeling: This is equivalent to putting a label or stereotyping someone’s specific behavior and scolding it, such as saying: “look at what you have done AGAIN! You are…!”
  10. Analysis: Analysis is as if you are standing on an authoritative point of view to point out what is wrong with someone, but this may not be what he/she need. Because you also used a logical way to analyze his situation, and what he/she needs is your words of encouragement and support.
  11. Giving assurance: This is to make the other person feel that you want him/her to try not to feel the current feeling, and you try to force him/her not to think too much. But doing so just ignores his/her true feelings, and it is likely that he/she will think that you don’t care about how he/she thinks. You just want to brush him/her off.
  12.  Asking inappropriate questions: “Why?” is actually a very piercing question. This is what the professor did not encourage us to say in our counseling courses. Asking why makes people feel questioned. At the same time, asking why also means that you assume that the person knows how to solve the problem. If he/she has already felt confused and helpless, asking him/her why is not too helpful.

Last time we mentioned that self-disclosure can make interpersonal relationships stronger in the article about Johari window. In fact, if the relationship is deeper, than the content of self-disclosure is going to be more private, the shallower the relationship is, the content of self-disclosure is going to be less private. Scholars have a theory of social penetration, which shows that the depth of self-disclosure and the closeness of the relationship are related. This also means that we normally want to tell the people close to us about our personal and private thoughts and worries, and naturally hope that they can provide the support we want. If we don’t know how to give others the feedback they need, it might be better to keep quiet and listen quietly, than to use the dirty dozen.

Just like this example, an elementary school principal always complains to his husband about the pressure and troubles she encounters at work when he drives them home. The husband can’t listen to his wife really carefully, because he has to concentrate on driving. But he always answer: ” hmm! Oh!” The wife feels much better, although she knows the fact that he can’t pay 100 percent attention to her, at least she still can feel that someone is listening to her complaints.

Next time, we will continue to discuss the various elements of communication, and let’s get to know more about the art and philosophy of communication!

如何才能沒壓力 遇見內心平衡的自己 馬克克洛普利著
人際關係與人際溝通 二版 陳皎眉博士著

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