Improving our message, part 1

What is communication? It is getting a message from one person (sender) to another (receiver) with understanding. The problem is that many times we do not understand the message we are being sent. Communication is the basis of relationships. Relationships are the basis of life. No man is an island. We all need each other.

            Leo Buscaglia wrote in his book ‘Loving each other’ of a study that listed communication as the number one quality of a relationship. The people in the study listed communication as the desire to be opened, to share, to relate, and to actively speak and listen to one another. Lack of communication was said to be the main cause of destroying a relationship.

            When we consider our relationships with our loved ones with mental health issues from the view of the family/friends or from the view of the consumer, things can become tricky. Despite the issues of mental illness, true communication can occur with some practice.

            Sometimes there are some barriers to true communication. These may be:

  • Life experiences – could be from a bad childhood, mental health issues, trauma
  • Negative thinking- some are just stuck in negativity. Negativity is one of the leading causes of depression.
  • Fear – fear of rejection, fear no one wants to listen to them
  • Anger- anger can short-circuit the communication route. Time outs are a great tool for both sender/receiver to use to allow emotions to calm down so the brain can work at its best.
  • Lack of knowledge how to communicate.

When we run into these communication barriers, we end up feeling frustration, resentment, or rebellion. We may want to use substances, abuse ourselves or someone else, or even commit suicide.

Many of us have developed some poor communication skills. Some examples of these are:

  • Talking when angry – This is a biggie. Best technique to avoid this is to give yourself a time out.
  • Shaming/blaming – You should’ve done this. It is your fault that this happened.
  • Comparing – Why can’t you be like _______?
  • Referring to the past – You told me you wouldn’t do ____ again, but you did it just last week. I knew I couldn’t trust you. (Leads to shaming/blaming/accusing/manipulating).

An important part of communication is the non-verbal. Are we shutting out the other person by our body language? Do we cross our arms/legs and look elsewhere. Do we have the TV on watching a movie while someone is trying to talk to us? Are we too busy preparing for something else that we don’t stop to pay attention?

For this next week, I would like to challenge each of you to become aware of your own communication habits. In the following articles, we will learn ways to improve our communication, but first, we must be aware of what we do now. When talking with someone try being present in the conversation. You will be amazed at the improvement in the understanding between the two of you.