Difficulties with Communication

What is communication?

Communication is the transmission of information from one person to another. This can be done through verbal communication, written or spoken words, or through non-verbal communication, such as gestures, facial expressions, head movements, and body position. Effective communication is when the communicator expresses themselves clearly and the person receiving the information can fully understand the information, as well as the emotion and intention behind it. This effective communication allows people to exchange ideas, thoughts, and feelings, leading to mutual understanding. Poor communication, however, happens when there is a difference between what the communicator says and what the receiver hears, meaning there is no longer mutual understanding. There are internal factors among all communicating parties that can affect each person’s ability to clearly convey their thoughts and understand what is said to them. Poor communication can lead to conflict among colleagues, friends, and family, which can lead to lowered mood, self-esteem, and decreased interpersonal relationships.

Common signs of poor communication

Ineffective or poor communication is often characterised by certain types of language, behaviour, and psychological barriers. These include:

  • “You” language – Starting statements with “you” followed by a negative judgment or directive such as “you people…”, “you have to…”, or “you are…”
  • Universal statements – Generalising a person’s character or behaviour in a negative way and is often combined with “you” language, such as “you always…”, “you never…”, or “every time…”
  • Being tough on the person you are communicating with and soft on the issue or behaviour you are addressing.
  • Invalidating feelings of another person by discounting, belittling, ignoring or negatively judging these feelings.
  • Using overly aggressive, negative, or defensive language
  • Frequently interrupting others or constantly talking, not giving them a chance to speak.
  • Negative or closed body language such as tapping your feet, avoiding eye contact, and crossing arms.
  • Not providing enough input or feedback leaving other people without enough information.
  • Assuming what the other person or people are thinking, feeling, or already know.
  • Lack of focus, being easily distracted or multitasking during conversations.
  • Being stressed or emotionally overwhelmed during conversations leading to misreading others or sending confusing non-verbal signals.

Tips and strategies for better communication

Having good effective communication can be hard work and takes practice and continuing effort. Here are a few tips to help you communicate more efficiently and successfully:

  • Express feelings with “I” statements, focusing on your own thoughts and feelings and owning them (e.g., “you make me upset when…” instead try “I feel upset when…”)
  • Focus on hearing the other person and trying to understand what they are attempting to convey.
  • Separate the issue or behaviour you want to talk about from the person you are talking to and be soft on the person whilst tough on the issue (e.g., “You are a smart person and I think you made a foolish decision.”)
  • Process your feelings before you have a conversation about a tough or upsetting issue.
  • Show interest in what is being said with verbal and non-verbal cues such as nodding, smiling, or saying “yeah” or “uh huh.”
  • If you don’t understand what the other person has said ask them for clarification, or reflect back to them what you have heard (e.g. “It sounds like you are saying…” or “What I’m hearing is…”)
  • Think about what you hope to gain from the conversation. It is also helpful to think about or ask what the other person or people hope to achieve from the conversation.
  • If the conversation you want to have is important and could take a while, think about when the best time to have the conversation would be.
  • Avoid constantly redirecting the conversation to yourself or trying to compare issues (e.g., “Well something even worse happened to me…”)

When can a Psychologist help?

It might be time to get some help when you feel like you are struggling to communicate effectively with other people and your mental health is being negatively impacted by frustration caused by misunderstandings. Psychologists can help you improve your communication skills by helping you identify and understand your own needs and your patterns of communication. They can help you find and learn new ways to communicate more effectively and explore underlying distress caused by miscommunication in a safe, non-judgmental space. Our team is here to help when you need support in finding ways to express yourself so you feel heard and understood. You can book online here, give us a call on (02) 4625 3339 or email us at admin@innerspacepsych.com.au.

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