Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Communication Skills

I think there are some basics to effective interpersonal communication and connection. When starting therapy and you are looking for some direction for immediate results, I think the that the following can be very helpful...

Seek out Calm, non-defensive, and respectful reactions:

  • Do not yell. If the other person is yelling, it becomes especially important that you don't raise your voice so as to prevent a natural escalation of competing interests.
  • Do not cuss. Exaggerated language is often proof of an exaggerated understanding of what actually happened. If you swear, the other party is likely to only hear the expletives and will stop listening for any validity in what you're saying.
  • No name-calling. Belittling a person always shifts the focus off of resolving the actual problem. Verbal abuse is never welcome.
  • Do not speak in generalities of another person's behavior. It's hard for anyone to own up to a generalization (always, never, everyone, no one, etc…) and so you'll likely just see his or her defensiveness activate.

 Look for a capacity to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person: 

  • Always start and end the conversation by affirming that you care about the other person. In the midst of a disagreement, you can never underestimate the power and importance of reminding the other person that you care about them and believe in them.
  • Be open to the idea that you made a mistake. People rarely get upset for no reason, so there is a good chance that there is at least a kernel of truth to what they are saying.
  • Be willing to take responsibility of a portion of the problem.

 Be prepared for a readiness to forgive and to move past the conflict without holding resentments or anger:

  • Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive.
  • Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to old hurts and resentments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.

Make yourself available to your ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing:

  • Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or "being right." Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.
  • Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish.

 And remember that your belief in facing the conflict head on is the best thing for both sides:

  • Focus on trying to discover what's right, not who is right. When thinking about what happened, try to remove yourself from the situation and evaluate right and wrong based solely on the actions that took place regardless of which side you're on. Treat it as if you are refereeing someone else's game.
  • Remind yourself the other person also cares about reconciling the relationship. One of the fundamental causes of many disagreements is feeling hurt that the other person is no longer considering your perspective, but if they didn't care about a resolution with you they wouldn't be fighting for one.