PSYCHOTHERAPY: PROBLEMS IN COMMUNICATION
People are relational beings. We need being close to other people, and to be close to other people we need to communicate with them. Only small babies do not need words – by nature, their parents take care of them and cater to them, although the babies know no words. With adult people the situation is different.
The ability to effectively communicate with others is crucial in almost all aspects of our lives: in professional and private relationships, in business, during shopping, when we describe our symptoms to a doctor, when we transfer our skills and values to our children, when we discuss terms of cooperation. This list could be extend endlessly. In some situations, very basic communication is sufficient, while in others we need much more fluent or even sophisticated skills. Many difficulties arise from communication problems, so when we encounter such problems, it is advisable to work on them.
In numerous situations, a psychologist’s office is a good place to acquire or develop efficient communication skills. During individual consultations together with a psychologist we may look closely at things that do not work and then work out a plan to overcome the difficulties. We may examine available methods (e.g. assertiveness techniques, negotiation techniques, self-presentation techniques), find out how to use them in our specific situation, and train them tutored by a psychologist in a safe situation of the psychologist’s office, and then, when we are ready, use them in real life situations.
If you encounter communication problems as a couple or as a family, I encourage to use a marital therapy (couple therapy) or family therapy. During a session, a psychologist together with all participants will examine our communication patterns and propose methods to work on development of the communication. The psychologist may propose many tools and exercises to help us communicate better.
Communications skills I work on during psychotherapy
I have a very comprehensive list of communication skills I have worked on with my clients during psychotherapeutic sessions or during psychological assistance consultations. Different people have different problems and different needs. So far, I have worked on the following issues, among others:
- Why is it worthwhile to talk to other people? How to talk to other people? What moment to choose for a discussion? What situations are not beneficial for a conversation and achieving our goals?
- How to talk about other issues than mere facts? How to name emotions and needs? How to talk about meaning, values, intentions? Do men talk about emotions and relationships?
- How to discuss difficult issues with children? How to talk with them about adults fighting and about a planned divorce? How to talk about death with a child?
- How to make a teenager tell us the truth? What should I do to make a teenager talk to me? How to make a teenager listen and hear what I say?
- How to find balance between the need to talk (and be close) of one partner in a relationship and the need to distance oneself (and have space) of the other? How to restrain from repeating a classic “chase and escape” pattern?
- What is redundancy and what we need it for in communication? How may functions words and phrases may have? How many meanings?
- How to recognise meritorical arguments and pressure? How to deal with pressure? What to do when the interlocutor uses allusions and suggestions or avoids giving an answer?
- How to avoid our emotions negatively affect our communication with our partner? How to distance ourselves and calm down emotions when the discussion becomes more heated (not to go too far, not to hurt our partner in a manner that cannot be taken back)? When to show emotions?
- How to set boundaries? How to refuse when someone is putting pressure on us? How to accept support without feeling guilty?
- How to effectively reason for an issue important to us? How to protect ourselves from attacks and criticism?
- How to express our opinions? How to present our point of view when it differs from the common point of view? Is presenting our point of view “causing problems”?
- How to present our expectations to our employer not putting ourselves at risk? How to discuss a raise, a promotion, payment of overdue salary, overtime, business trips, trainings?
- How to discuss intimate issues (related to sexual life, to the body, or to diseases)?
- What is the difference between a communication problem and a disagreement (disagreement in values, conflict of interest, disagreement opportunities and risk evaluation)? How to differentiate between those two?
- When it makes no sense to keep the conversation? In what situations we should take a break? How to do it not to hurt or insult our interlocutor?
When you believe that communication problems apply to you and your partner or your entire family, it is advisable that you begin working on them as soon as possible. When working on your own over the communication with your partner or children does not bring desired results, you may want to turn for professional assistance of a communication skills trainer, a psychologist or a psychotherapist conducting marital therapy. Often a small effort may encourage change on which we can work further.
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