5 Critical Communication Errors
So you’ve been there right? Where you are having a conversation with your partner and all of a
sudden it takes a nose dive into complete hostility and anger? You both are spewing out hurtful
words and arguing over something so stupid. You look back and wonder “how in the world did
we go from that to this?” It seems as though more times than not your conversations always end
in argument. Though your intentions may be good, the direction ends up all wrong.
Why is this happening? What has happened to our relationship? Why can I not seem to ever say anything without my partner getting offended or upset? These are all good questions and extremely important to know the answers to in order to have a healthy and happy relationship.
We all have had those times where we needed to talk to our partner about something that is
bothering us or have a discussion about a topic that we know is a difficult one to navigate. But
the thought of bringing it up is overwhelming because you don’t want to have an
argument......again. Things are going pretty good so you don’t want to upset the apple cart by
having this discussion that ultimately leads to arguing. Well, the truth is you can’t ignore it
forever, this conversation has to happen.
So what do you do? I know there are tons of information on how to communicate effectively and those are all good (I will most likely blog on that as well at some point) but let’s look at what NOT to do. If we can focus in on what not do when trying to communicate and avoid those things then maybe by default we can end up doing what we should do and have more effective communication. You can see if you’re a good communicator by taking this quiz here.
Ok, let’s get to it. Let us take a look.
Critical Communication Error #1: Blaming
Blaming is an absolute horrible strategy when speaking with your partner. How do you feel
when someone says to you, “Well if you weren’t such a (fill in the blank) then I wouldn’t be like
this” or “It’s all your fault!”
No one likes to hear these words because it doesn’t feel good and we feel attacked. We are being blamed for something we clearly feel is NOT true. It puts us on the defensive and sets us up to attack back. There is nothing about blaming that helps us communicate well with our partner. It takes two to tango so it is nearly impossible for one person to shoulder all of the blame in a relationship. Therefore, when approaching a topic that you want to discuss, begin with “I” statements rather than “you.” This will help you avoid the blame game.
Critical communication error #2: Exaggerating
Exaggerating will almost always give your partner the upper hand and call you out. The reason
is because when we exaggerate we use words like “never, always, or only.” Do any of these
sound familiar? “You never listen to me!” “You always do what you want to do.” “I am the only
one who takes care of the dog.”
When we speak like this we are setting ourselves up for failure. Why you ask? Because your partner can probably come up with at least one instance to disprove your accusation. Once that happens, the point you are trying to make gets overthrown by the new argument of trying to prove yourself right in making such an all or nothing statement.
I completely understand why we fall into the trap of exaggeration because we are so emotionally
driven that we typically feel that the exaggeration is on point. But we must avoid this. It distracts
us from the original point and we end up in a completely different direction. My suggestion, bring
up one or two instances you can recall to provide as evidence to the thoughts and feelings
surrounding the point.
Critical communication error #3: Assuming (mind reading)
You know what they say about assuming..... This error implies that you are an expert on them
and you know what they are thinking and feeling. This is wrong on two levels. The first error is
regarding your partner, they will most definitely argue with you that you don’t know what they
are thinking and feeling, again distracting from the intention of the conversation. The second
error is regarding you. When we assume, most often we tend to disregard what the person is
telling us and keep believing what we assume to be true. We pick up on little details of
behaviors and circumstances trying to prove our mind reading skills to be on point and the
words of our partner to be false. Does this sound familiar? “I went and bought this new dress for
our date night and he hasn’t said one word about it. He must think I look terrible and hates it!”
Can you see how this works against you? Creating good communication skills and trust cannot
be accomplished when we assume we know what our partner feels and thinks. This would be a
good place for you to work on skills that help you truly HEAR one another, but that is for another
Critical Communication Error #4: Name calling
What do they say? “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” I am
sorry but why do we tell our youth such lies? Yes, sticks and stones can hurt and break bones
but I am willing to bet that names hurt more! Can you recall a time in your life when you were
called a name? Something hurtful? I am sure when you think about it, some emotions are drawn
up as well. That is because when we are hurt by name calling, it can run deep. It hurts our heart
and our self esteem. And when we are called names repeatedly the offense is even deeper.
Therefore, when we communicate with our spouse it is so important that we do not resort to
name calling. “You are such a jerk! You’re a bitch! You are nothing but an arrogant SOB!” and
the list goes on.
When we begin using this language often in our relationship we slowly destroy the respect we have for our partner. Even if we do not realize it at the time, subconsciously we are creating a disrespectful view of them and we will begin to behave as such. There is a difference between saying “you are a jerk” to “you are acting like a jerk.” The second phrase is
describing the behavior not attacking their character. This is a HUGE difference. Semantics
matter here. The take away from this one is: learn how to describe their behavior specifically
rather than attacking their character by labeling them with names.
Critical Communication Error #5: Timing
Timing is everything right? How many times do you find yourself bringing up an issue right
before you head to work, right when your partner walks in the door from work or right before you
go to bed? Or maybe you find yourself offering, assumably, helpful feedback right after your partner has just shared a situation that they experienced? I understand that it is tempting to
quickly bring up an issue that is not one you really want to discuss so bringing it up when you
know there is not much time seems favorable but it is not. This just increases the frustration and
the probability of you falling into the trap of the other four critical errors is high because you are
communicating in haste. You feel pressed for time to speak your mind and your partner is
already annoyed that it is brought up at such an inconvenient time. With regards to the second
example of offering feedback after hearing your partner share something with you, the timing of
giving the feedback is so important with how it is received. Sometimes our partner just needs
you to listen. They do not want advice, feedback or solutions. They just want someone to listen and validate their feelings. The feedback you want to offer can still be given, just be sensitive to when the best time would be.
Communication is key in our relationships. When communication begins to break down we are
vulnerable to various other problems entering our relationship. How is your communication with
your partner? Do you feel that you’re a good communicator or do you feel that you’re making some of these critical mistakes? See how good of a communicator you are by taking this quiz here.