For such an important and critical part of relationships, healthy and effective communication skills aren't often implemented.  Notice how I said, "healthy and effective communication skills" and not just "communication skills".  Shooting off an f-bomb to someone may be effective in getting across that you are upset, but it is not necessarily healthy and effective in getting the response you were hoping. Typically, you get the opposite. Here are a few tips:

#1 Don't Interrupt -

Let's start this point off with a joke.

A: Knock knock

B: Who's there

A: Interrupting Cow

B: Interrupting Co...


Cheesy, I know, but it is effective in demonstrating the process of interrupting.   Person B never got a chance to answer person A as A interrupted B.  Not only is Interrupting considered rude in our culture, it can also be extremely frustrating for both (or more) parties involved. Think back to a time you were talking with someone and were interrupted by them.  How did it make you feel?  Did you walk away feeling satisfied you were heard? Did you leave thinking, "wow, that was some good dialogue" or were you feeling tired and/or annoyed? Remember, the only person you can change is yourself, so next time you're conversing with someone, give them a chance to finish their thought.  If you are being interrupted, assert yourself and say something like, "I feel frustrated when I am interrupted while talking.  Can you please wait until I finish my thought/sentence before responding. This way, we will both benefit by fully hearing each other's point of view". Start practicing the skill of not interrupting in non-heated conversations, then gradually as it becomes more second nature, it will be easier to do when a heated topic arises.

The following scenario will be used for points #2, 3, 4, & 5

Read the following conversation.  Martha (M) and Amrit (A) are talking about how Amrit's eating disorder is having an effect on the family.

M - You never eat with us anymore.

A - That's because you always cook things no one likes.

M - Your father is very concerned. Your sister feels like she can't talk to you anymore.

A - You make me feel so f!@#ing guilty when you say that!

#2  "I" statements - When communicating, speak only for yourself. Even if you know someone feels/thinks the exact same way you do, speak only on your own behalf. When doing so, use "I" statements.  Using the above as an example, Martha could say, "I am very concerned. I feel like I can't talk to you anymore".  She is owning what she is saying and leaves more room for dialogue between her and Amrit as the two people who are in the conversation are both present.  Also, when using "I feel", no one can truthfully state back to you, "no you don't" as you feel how you feel.

#3 Own Your Feelings

No one can make you feel anything.  Own your feelings! If someone does something, and this action stirs feelings within you, it is yours to own and deal with. There could be multiple ways of responding to Martha's comments as opposed to, "You make me feel so f!@#ing guilty when you say that".  For example, Amrit could feel angry, sad, annoyed, indifferent, or even happy in response to Martha's remark.  Regardless of Amrit feelings, a healthy way to respond would be, "I feel (insert feeling) that you can't talk to me anymore".  Use your feelings as an indicator something is going on inside of you.  Identifying, labelling and owning your feelings is a good first few steps in moving forward both in communication and recovery. 

#4 Avoid Absolutes -  Do you 'always', 'never', 'forever', 'all the time'... I doubt it! Absolutes get people nowhere as it can halt the conversation.  It also feeds into the traps of black and white, or all or none thinking.  Take out the absolutes and get into the specifics.  For example, Amrit could say, "That's because you cook with milk and I am lactose intolerant".  Notice how he killed two birds with one stone? He got rid of the absolute ('always' and 'no one'), in addition to using the 'I' statement around being lactose intolerant. 

#5 Semantics - Swearing often shuts people down and/or raises their backs. If you want individuals to hear what you are saying and to actually considerate it, swear words, exaggerations and tone need to be in check.  People are likely to respond in healthier ways when they are communicated in a approachable way. Think of a dog for a second.  Are you more likely to pet a dog who has a mean loud aggressive bark, who is bearing its teeth or the one that is calm, smiling and wagging its tail? Amrit is not likely going to get his needs met by adding in the word, 'f!@#ing' in his speech to his mom. Keep in mind, just because someone approaches you with swears, aggression and bearing teeth does not automatically mean you must respond the same way. You are in control of yourself.   

#6 Ask! - When in doubt, ask for clarification! If you are uncertain about what/how something is being communicated, ask for it to be rephrased or repeated.  Asking questions in general is a great way to understand what the other person needs and means!

How do you communicate? Are you finding it effective?