Communication Killer #2: Forcing a Fix
The second is “Forcing a Fix.”
What we often don’t realize, particularly men, is that when someone comes to us with a need, concern or a problem, they may not want us to “fix it” as a matter of top priority. They often want us to listen and connect with them first before solving a problem. That’s why “Forcing a Fix” is often a potential communication blocker. Here’s the various ways we do that.
Ordering or Commanding
Your teenage daughter comes to you and says, “My so-called friend just posted what I thought was a private conversation on Facebook.” You react, “OK, get online right now and send her a message to take the posting down.” Before you jump in and try to fix the problem, stop and think. Maybe she already did. Perhaps it wasn’t a solution to the problem she wanted from you. Perhaps what she really wanted was for you to share her hurt because of what her friend did.
Whether the threat is presented as coming from you or a third party, the effect is the same. Your husband tells you that he can’t find the checkbook. You reply, “I’m so tired of this. If you don’t stop doing this, I’m going to take over the household finances.” Your son informs you that he has forgotten to renew the license sticker for his car. You reply, “You better get it done quickly or they will pull you over and write you a ticket!”
This sort of solution sending often includes the word “should.” It’s a way of invoking the force of morality for any advice given. You tell your college roommate how disappointed you are that you got a “D” on the final test. She replies, “I thought you should have studied harder.” This communication blocker tends to create anxiety and shame, and encourages pretense on the part of other person. Moralizing is a great way to make people regret being open with you.
The “3rd Degree”
When another comes to us with a need, concern or problem, if we respond with a barrage of questions, even if it is an attempt to demonstrate interest, is a potential communication blocker. Your daughter tells you that her roommate is moving out to move in with her boyfriend. You respond with,
“I don’t know.”
“Have you paid the rent yet?”
“Well, is she planning to pay her half?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her about it yet.”
“There just hasn’t been a good time for her.”
“OK, then, what’s in your lease agreement?”
“She’s supposed to pay half, I guess.”
And on it goes while you waste a perfect opportunity to connect emotionally with your daughter, who’s primary issue is how she feels betrayed by her roommate, who promised she would never do that.
There is nothing wrong with advice, per se. But when another comes to you with a need, concern or problem and the first thing you do is launch into your best advice for solving the problem, communication comes to a screeching halt. Once again, you have assumed that they have come to you for a solution, when all they might want is a sympathetic ear. The other issue here is that knee-jerk advice-giving can be an implicit suggestion that the other lacks the capacity to solve the issue on their own. It says to the other person, “I can see the answer right away…what’s the matter with you?”
There are three categories of communication roadblocks. Judgment is the first one. Forcing a Fix is the second. The next post will cover the last category, called “Diverting the Concern.”
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