How to Communicate Effectively

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Basics of Effective Communication:

Effective communication is based more on how say things rather than on what you actually say.

A conversation can go very well or wind up in a lot of anger and upset, depending on the communication style used. Our means of communication impacts all facets of life. 

When communicating, the goal should always be to understand – not to be right.  When we approach situations with curiosity, rather than with anger or accusation, we tend to be better listeners, thus better problem solvers. Get the facts before you pass judgment.  Some styles lend themselves better to this than others.

Here are Four Different Communication Styles

  1. Passive Communication:

An example of passive communication: John doesn’t show up for the date he has with Sally and Sally feels angry and hurt by the situation, but doesn’t want to rock the boat. When John later calls her, Sally tells him she is fine and does not assert herself, making another plan with John.

Passive communication Is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights and identifying and meeting their needs.  Passive communication is usually comes from low self-esteem.  The core belief associated with passive communication is: “I’m not worth taking care of.” People who are communicating passively may not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations.  Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup. They are prone to explosive outbursts which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. Afterwards, they feel shame, guilt and confusion so they return to being passive.

People who are communicating passively will often: 

·      Fail to assert for themselves

·      Allow others to deliberately or inadvertently cross their boundaries

·      Tend to speak softly or apologetically

·      Exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture

Impact of passive communication:

·      Anxiety because life seems out of their control

·      Depression because they feel stuck and hopeless

·      Resentment (they may be unaware of the resentment) because needs are not being met

·      Confused because they ignore their own feelings

·      Unable to mature because real issues never get addressed.

Belief system:

·      I’m unable to stand up for my rights.

·       I don’t know what my rights are.

·       I get stepped on by everyone.

·      I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.

·      People never consider my feelings.

When Passivity is Appropriate:

·      When the results of pushing the issue would cause problems that outweigh the benefits. 

·      When issues are minor.

·      When there is a power differential that is not in your favor and the other party is getting agitated by your assertiveness.

·      When the other individual’s position is impossible to change.  

2. Aggressive Communication:

Example of aggressive communication: “What is WRONG with you?! You NEVER do anything right!” Individuals express feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Aggressive communication usually comes from low self-esteem, is often caused by past physical and/or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive communicators will often:

·      Try to dominate others

·      Use humiliation to control others

·      Criticize, blame or attack others

·      Are very impulsive

·      Have low frustration tolerance

·      Speak in a loud, demanding and overbearing voice

·      Act threateningly and rudely

·      Not listen well

·      Interrupt frequently

·      Use “you” statements

·      Have piercing eye contact and overbearing posture

Impact of aggressive communication:

·      Become alienated from others

·      Alienate others

·      Generate fear and hatred in others

·      Blames others instead of owning their issues, therefore they have trouble with personal growth

Belief system:

·      I’m superior and right and  you’re inferior and wrong

·      I’m loud, bossy and pushy

·       I can dominate and intimidate you

·       I can violate your rights

·      I’ll get my way no matter what

·      You’re not worth anything

·      It’s all your fault

·      I react instantly

·      I’m entitled

·      You owe me.

·       I own you.

3. Passive-Aggressive communication:

Example of passive-aggressive communication: “Fine. Whatever”. Individuals communicating passive aggressively seem to be passive on the surface but are really showing anger in a subtle, indirect or behind-the-scenes way.  Anger is expressed by subtly undermining the object of their resentments.  

Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:

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·      Mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue

·      Have difficulty acknowledging their anger

·      Use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel – for example, smiling when angry

·      Use sarcasm

·      Deny there is a problem

·      Appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt

·      Use subtle sabotage to get even

Impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication:

·      Become alienated from those around them

·      Remain stuck in a position of powerlessness

·      Discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they have trouble with personal growth

People who communicate passive-aggressively

·       I am weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate and disrupt

·      I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must do so indirectly

·       I will appear cooperative but I’m not

4. Assertive Communication:

Example of assertive communication to let someone know they’ve crossed a boundary: “When you laugh while I tell you my feelings, I feel hurt and sad because I tell myself that it means that you don’t care. My request of you is to listen respectfully and let me know that you hear my feelings. Are you able to honor my request?”

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Individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others.  Assertive communication often indicates someone has high self-esteem.  These individuals value themselves, their time and their emotional, spiritual and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive communicators will often:

·      State needs and wants clearly, appropriate and respectfully

·      Express feelings clearly, appropriate and respectfully

·      Use “I” statements

·      Communicate respect for others

·      Listen well without interrupting

·      Feel in control of self

·      Have good eye contact

·      Speak in a calm and clear tone of voice

·      Have a relaxed body posture

·      Feel connected to others

·      Feel competent and in control

·      Not allow others to abuse or manipulate them

·      Stand up for their rights

Impact of assertive communication:

·      Feel connected to others

·      Feel in control of their lives

·      Are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise

·      Create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature

Assertive belief system:

·      We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another

·       I am confident about who I am

·       I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options

·       I speak clearly, honestly and to the point

·       I can’t control others, I can control myself

·       I place a high priority on having my rights respected

·       I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner

·       I respect the rights of others

·      Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to it with to me

·      I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness. 

Pointers on Assertion:

·      Being assertive means you also must own what is yours to own.  If the other person has a point about your behavior, take it in as constructive feedback and see if it is something you’d like to change about yourself.

  • It is okay to say “I don’t know.”

  • It is okay to say “No,” or “I cannot do that.”

  • It is okay to make mistakes as long as responsibility is taken for them.

  • It is okay to disagree and to verbalize that.

  • It is okay to challenge others’ opinions or actions.  

  • It is okay to not accept another’s opinion as factual or accurate

  • It is okay to ask for a change in behavior.

Which communication styles do you respond best to? What are some of your goals for communicating effectively?

 For more information on communication styles and help learning how to be more assertive, contact us here.

Bryn Mawr Trauma Therapy: 3 Things to Consider When Searching for a Trauma Specialist

  1. Do you want to learn skills or go deep?

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Before searching for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, you may want to consider what, exactly you are looking for.  Do you want to learn skills to help you tolerate the trauma memories?  Or would you prefer to engage in deeper therapeutic work to get underneath the trauma so that it can heal at the core?  

Skills such as DBT Skills are extremely helpful for daily life.  

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DBT has 4 tenants: distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and mindfulness.  These skills are essential when doing trauma work for PTSD and for many other difficulties such as anxiety, depression, anger management, eating disorders, self-harm and addiction.  

If you’d prefer to get underneath the trauma, you will need a therapist who can help you with skills to stabilize and one who is able to help you heal at the root of the problem. 

These skills are the building blocks that will allow you to be able to function and tolerate uncomfortable memories and emotions as you dive deeper into the healing work.  

2. Which Therapeutic Models Do you Prefer?

When looking for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, you’ll also want to take the time to find out the model or theory that the therapist uses to help navigate your therapy.  If you’re looking for a safe space to process and talk things out make sure you find a counselor who is great at talk therapy. If you are looking for evidence based interventions to help you DO something with the traumatic material, you may want to investigate something like EMDR.  If you want to work more from the body or a creative place, you may want to look for an art therapist, a yoga therapist or an experiential or psycho-dramatic therapist.  Ideally, you’ll find a therapist who is able to choose a therapeutic tool from a large tool belt with many choices.  

3. What is your commitment level to healing?

Successful therapy is mostly about your commitment to healing.  Your counselor may ask you to consider abstaining from addictive substances, behaviors or eating disordered behaviors, especially while you’re engaged in trauma work. If you’re doing drugs, engaging in self harm or throwing up your food while you’re trying to heal from PTSD, it can side-track the process. Instead of taking the time in between sessions to allow your psyche to continue to process and digest the trauma, engaging in behaviors can numb the emotions and make it less likely that you will process and be ready for your next session.  When you commit to your own healing process, it means you are willing to look at all aspects of your life and work towards shifting the things that no longer serve you.  

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Commitment to healing also means consistency.  

If you engage in therapy every week, it creates synergistic momentum as opposed to dropping in only when you’re experiencing anxiety or depressive symptoms. Committing to consistent therapy will help you heal faster and more completely.  What is your level of commitment to healing from a traumatic past?

If you’re looking for a trauma specialist near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and need some helping finding the right person for you, please feel free to give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15 minute initial consultation.  We are happy to help you find the right trauma therapist for you.