Ever feel like the conversation you thought you were going to have stopped the moment it started? If so, was it something you said, or didn’t say? Or thought you heard?
Living with a chronic condition presents a lot of challenges. And so does talking about them. Uncomfortable emotions may come up. Long avoided decisions may have to be made. Somebody might be left feeling helpless.
Nobody promised this would be easy. But being aware of what you, or your partner, may be doing that stops a conversation in its tracks is the first step toward improving your communication.
Here are top the five:
Blaming. Launching with the blame game has the risk of placing the other person on the defensive. Nobody likes to be told they did something wrong (even when they did). As a result, most likely, they stop listening. Don’t let your own frustration and disappointment turn into an accusation that may cause your partner to stop hearing you.
Fixing. When someone you care about is hurting, it’s only human nature to want to do something about whatever it is that is making them hurt. First, not everything is fixable. Second, trying to fix someone else may be more about trying to do something about your own feelings of helplessness. Remember that what your partner most needs is a listening ear.
Judging. Everybody has a right to their own feelings and thoughts. Even if they aren’t feeling or thinking the way you think they should. Judging is a way of avoiding any discomfort your partner’s reactions might be causing you. Disapproval can be implied not only in your words, but in your body language.
Drifting. One of the ways we avoid uncomfortable situations is by allowing ourselves to be distracted. So when you feel your attention suddenly moving away from the person you are talking to, and toward something else – the TV, what you want for dinner, summer on the beach – you are most likely sending the message that you aren’t willing to engage. You don’t have to say a thing because the other person can read it in your glazed over eyes and your blank expression.
Minimizing. Saying “It’s not so bad” or “It’s gonna be fine” may make you feel less helpless, but it leaves the other person feeling misunderstood, or that you just don’t care. And the truth is, the situation may actually be that bad and it may not turn out fine. Minimizing is another way of avoiding.
Is your partner using conversation stoppers when you try to communicate?
First, ask yourself if they are reacting to a conversation stopper you may be using. For example, if your partner feels they are being blamed for something, they may in turn drift away to avoid guilty feelings.
Second, your partner may not be aware of their conversation stopper. You might help by gently pointing it out. “I am trying to talk to you about ____________.” And when you ___________, it is hard for me to have a conversation with you. What can I do to help us communicate better?”
Don’t let your conversation with your partner stop before it begins. Recognize and identify conversation stoppers. Work together on overcoming them. After all, you’re a team!