Communication Killer #3: Deflecting the Other’s Concerns
Effective communication is absolutely essential to maintaining any relationship. And when a relationship is strained or conflicted or broken in some way, it can’t be healed without skillful communication.
Carl Rogers and others were able to identify at least a dozen of these very common, but destructive roadblocks to communication. And these dozen roadblocks can be divided into three types. The first is “Judging.” The second is “Forcing a Fix.” The last one is “Diverting the Other’s Concerns.”
This third category of communication blockers includes various ways of taking the conversation off-track. Below, I list three primary methods of doing this, but they all imply the same things to the other person: “I don’t care about the issues or feelings that led you to bring this up in conversation.”
Here’s how we do that:
This is what we do when we bend the other’s topic of conversation toward our own. This one has an ironic signal…it is often (but not always) preceded by the phrase, “Speaking of that…,” when they weren’t “speaking of that” at all.
Like in this so-called conversation in a coffee shop:
1st Speaker: “My son just learned that the bank may foreclose on their house. He tried so hard…”
2nd Person: “There’s lots of that happening all over. In fact, my neighbor just lost his.”
3rd Person: “Is it Northwest Bank? I heard they’re the worst.”
4th Person: “We have an account with them. Their tellers are rude.”
5th Person: “My son-in-law does customer service training. Sounds like they need it!”
Can you imagine the frustration of the first person to speak here? In fact, you likely can, as this is an extremely common event in conversation, and has probably happened to you. Some people sidetrack conversations because they are uncomfortable talking about emotional issues. Others simply feel that what they have to offer in the conversation is more important than what others offer. In any case, it’s a communication stopper.
What’s wrong with logic? Every need, concern or problem that another person might share with you has two components; a factual/situational component, and an emotional component. In many, many cases, the person who is sharing with you already knows how to solve the problem. What they are seeking from you is often psychological support to pursue the solution. That support comes from the sense of connectedness that results when we know someone has really listened and heard what’s happening on the inside of us. Logic focuses on the situation and tends to keep emotions on the sidelines. Logic is often used to avoid emotional connectedness with others.
How can this be a communication blocker? When someone shares with you a need, concern or problem, offering reassurance too soon signals your desire to put emotional distance between you and the other person. This is especially true when your reassurance is trite or dismissive. “You’re going to be fine.” “Everybody feels that way.” “They lived through it, so will you.” Dismissive reassurance is often delivered with platitudes or clichés, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Reassurance can be trivializing, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Whether we are talking about communication blockers that are Judgmental, Forcing a Fix, or Diverting the Concern, what they all have in common is a failure to listen to the other; failure to really hear what’s happening inside of them.
Effective communication begins with listening, not talking. Communication blockers all send the message, subtle and implicit as they may be, that we are not really listening for what’s happening inside the other person.
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