Unfortunately, we have learned many patterns of speech that can cause problems, especially when there is tension in the relationship. In order to substitute more effective responses, it is useful to first recognize those that get in the way of listening, learning and solving problems, while preserving the relationship.
A useful inventory of those responses was created by Dr. Thomas Gordon. Dr. Gordon was a colleague of Dr. Carl Rogers, an influential humanistic psychologist known for having developed effective client-centered counseling techniques. To bring those techniques to help lay people improve their listening and problem solving skills, Gordon outlined what he called “Roadblocks to Communication.” Take a look at some of them.
I. JUDGING THE OTHER PERSON – strategy used when you think you are right.
Criticizing. Judging, Blaming: Making a negative evaluation of the other person, his/her actions, or attitudes. “You brought it on yourself you’ve got nobody else to blame for the mess you are in.” (This kind of message makes the other person feel bad, incompetent, inadequate, inferior and/or stupid.)
Namecalling, Ridiculing, Shaming: “That was dumb!” “You know better than to be late.” “What a dope!” “Just like a woman.” “ “Egghead.” “You hardhats are all alike.” “You are just another insensitive male.” (The person tends to zero in on the unfairness of the message instead of looking at the situation realistically.)
Diagnosing: Analyzing why a person is behaving as he/she is; playing amateur psychiatrist. “You are doing that to irritate me.” “Just because you have a graduate degree, you think you are better than I.”
II. SENDING SOLUTIONS – a strategy that often compounds a problem or creates new ones without resolving the original dilemma.
Ordering: Commanding the other person to do what you want to have done. “Put these things away before you leave.” “Don’t leave a mess for others to clean up.”
Threatening: Trying to control the other’s actions by warning of negative consequences that you will instigate. “You’ll do it or else . . .” “If you can’t remember to______, I’ll have to_________.”
Moralizing: telling another person what he/she should do. “Preaching” at the other: “You shouldn’t tell a client that.” “You ought to tell him you are sorry.” “You ought to call if you’re going to be late.”
Excessive/Inappropriate Questioning: Closed-ended questions are often barriers in a relationship; these are those that can usually be answered in a few words often with simple yes or no. “When did it happen?” “Are you sorry that you did it?”
Advising: Giving the other person a solution to her/his problems. “If I were you, I’d _____.” “That’s an easy one to solve. First._________.”
III. AVOIDING THE OTHER’S CONCERNS – a strategy that gets the conversation off track, avoiding dealing with the problem.
Diverting: Pushing the other’s problems aside through distraction or changing the subject. “Don’t dwell on it, Sarah. Let’s talk about something more pleasant.” “Think you’ve got it bad?! Let me tell you what happened to me.”
Reassuring: Trying to stop the other person from feeling the negative emotions she is experiencing, “Don’t worry, it is always darkest before dawn. It will all work out OK in the end.”
What else is there? you ask!
Stay tuned. We will discuss that in our next blog!
That is all for today.
Carolyn and John
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