Recovery Help Now | When Communication is the Obstacle in Your Relationship
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When Communication is the Obstacle in Your Relationship

Obstacles in communicationThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Leslie Kolb, MSW.

Most of us have experienced conflicts within our relationships, and sometimes we might even feel as though these conflicts are insurmountable obstacles. But the foundation to solving conflict within any relationship lies in healthy communication.

If we can’t communicate with each other, how can we solve the issue at hand? It’s no secret that communication is a major contributing factor to a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. But what happens when communication is the major obstacle in your relationship? Can you identify the disconnects in your lines of communication? And how can you reconnect those breaks? Let’s identify some common obstacles to communication and how we can overcome them.

When a conflict first arises, we might find ourselves avoiding confrontation about the issue at hand. At this point we must ask ourselves, “What about this confrontation am I avoiding?” Could it be that we are afraid to be vulnerable? Or are we afraid we will be dismissed or rejected? If we can identify the fear, we can address it within the conversation. For example, we might say to our partner or friend, “Even if we disagree on this subject, I’d really like to talk about…” With this kind of framing, we can allow space to communicate our own fear of conflict while still addressing the issue at hand.

A second obstacle that many of us experience with communication is mind reading. Because we know our partners, friends, and family members so well, it can be easy to assume that we know what they are thinking or how they will react to certain issues. In lieu of asking our partner’s opinion, we simply assume how he or she feels, but we never truly know how someone is feeling unless we ask. Next time, instead of assuming, let’s try engaging our partners in dialogue about the issue we currently face. In doing so, we create a space for everyone’s opinion to be heard.

Speaking of being heard, another common obstacle to healthy communication can be when we interrupt or stop listening while we formulate our response. It’s tempting to do this, especially during passionate conversations that involve stark disagreement. But how would we feel if after spending time and energy explaining our point of view, our opinion or view wasn’t heard by our partner? One easy way to practice listening during a conversation is to listen to your partner until he or she finishes a statement, and then repeating back what you heard to your partner. Practicing this exercise can greatly increase our ability to identify miscommunications, connect more closely, and truly understand each other’s point of view.

A fourth obstacle to healthy communication is how we speak to one another. Accusatory language can alienate others and put them on the defensive, making them refuse to hear what we have to say. This is where the importance of “I statements” becomes apparent. For example, if we say, “You never listen to me when we talk,” it sounds as though we are making an accusation. Instead, we can say, “I don’t feel heard when we have conversations. Can we try a listen and repeat exercise?” This way, we can share the responsibility to communicate and also find a solution to the problem.

This week, when communicating with your partner, friends, or family members, try being mindful of these four common obstacles in communication. If you notice one of these obstacles occurring, try altering your behavior and take note of the results. You might be surprised at the communication obstacles you can overcome just by challenging yourself to make these small adjustments.

Elana Clark-Faler
elana@recoveryhelpnow.com