Advertising
Advertising

How Mentally Strong People Solve Communication Problems

How Mentally Strong People Solve Communication Problems

Communication and Long-Distance Relationships

In my early twenties, I said goodbye to my family in New York City and moved to Boston for graduate school. While I’d been living in my parents’ house, I talked to my mother, father, and teenage brother all the time, and felt really good about doing so. After I moved out, I wanted to stay close, so I called my family often. However, phone calls with my brother proved a major challenge. I called him regularly but he usually did not call back. My mother encouraged me to keep calling him, and reminded him often to call me – which he rarely did. I was upset and confused by this, as you can imagine, and when I visited NYC and pressed my brother to call me, he apologized, and said he would call back when I called. He did so for a bit, but then stopped again. My mother was distraught, and I was too. Negative feelings and thoughts kept running through my head: why didn’t he call me back? Didn’t he love me? Didn’t he care about me?

This issue festered for a couple of years, until I decided to deal with it directly. On my next extended visit to NYC, I sat down with him, and had a serious conversation. It turned out that my brother really dislikes talking on the phone. This form of communication just stresses him out. He has a much stronger preference for instant messaging as a mode of communication. Moreover, his Elephant brain developed an “ugh field,” a variety of negative emotions, around communicating with me. This was due to the combination of pressure he experienced from my mother and me, and the guilt and shame that came from him failing to call.

Advertising

What I Should Have Done

I really wish I knew how he felt! What I should have done was notice that he was not calling me back, and have a conversation about the problem with him right away. I should not have insisted that he call me, but instead express curiosity about why he did not. That way, I would have found out about his anxiety and stress around phone conversations. He would not have felt guilty and pressured. I would not have felt sad and confused. Everyone would have been better off!

Broader Relevance for Communication and Relationships

This story illustrates the importance of adapting one’s communication style to one’s audience. Much has been written about the vital role of communication in the workplace and in civic engagement, especially analyzing and targeting the preferences of your audiences to meet your communication goals. Research shows that such communication is also vital in our personal lives, such as ensuring healthy romantic relationships. Studies of family communication have likewise shown the importance of communicating well and especially being flexible about one’s communication style and preferences.

Advertising

Flexibility and Anchoring

Such flexibility was the missing ingredient in my communication to my brother. I had the goal of cultivating my relationship to my brother, but was trying to reach this goal in a way that was not intentional. So I decided to be more flexible and started exchanging Facebook messages with him, using Gmail chat, and other instant messaging services. We grew closer and had a much better relationship. We even worked to solve occasional problems that would come up between one of us and our parents!

Now, why did this problem occur in the first place? Well, from my background growing up, I developed a reference point, in other words a perception of what is normal and appropriate, of the phone being the “right way” to maintain and cultivate relationships with close people. I suffered from the anchoring bias, a common cognitive bias, the scientific name for thinking errors frequently made by our minds. The anchoring bias occurs when people rely too heavily on information they got early onward, and do not move away from this anchor sufficiently based on new information. I had to acknowledge that I failed at my brother’s mind and forgot that my mental map does not match his mental map.

Advertising

501292

    Dealing with Anchoring

    So how does one deal with the anchoring bias? A useful strategy is remembering the benefit of re-examining our cached patterns. This term refers to habits of thought and feeling in our mind that we absorbed uncritically from the social environment around us, as opposed to conclusions we arrived at by our own intentional reasoning. Re-evaluating our cached patterns of thought and feeling enables us to see reality more clearly, make more effective decisions, and achieve our goals, thus helping us gain greater agency in personal relationships and other life areas.

    Advertising

    So whenever you notice yourself confused or upset by something that you did not expect, stop and think: what is the origin of your confusion? Is it coming from some sort of cached pattern, where you think something is the only “right way” of doing things? Think about whether there are any alternative ways of achieving your desired outcome. (This is part of a broader strategy of dealing with common thinking errors by considering alternatives, which research shows is a very effective way for avoiding thinking errors.) Try listing at least 3 alternatives, and describe why each of them can be valid and right, at least for other people if not for you. Remember, relationships are a two-way street, and you need to respect the other person and their preferences in order to communicate well.

    Questions for Consideration

    To help you internalize this information, gain long-lasting benefit from reading this article, and use it effectively in your everyday life for improving your thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns, reflect on and answer the questions below.

    • Can you identify any ugh fields you developed? How do you deal with ugh fields?
    • In what ways, if any, can you be a better communicator in your professional, personal, and civic life areas?
    • Are there any instances where the anchoring effect caused you to make sub-optimal decisions?
    • Do you think you have any cached patterns that might be harmful to your mental well-being?
    • If so, what steps can you take to deal with these cached patterns?

    Featured photo credit: Phone via flickr.com

    More by this author

    Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

    President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

    How To Protect Women’s Freedom How To Pick The Most Cost-Effective Charities For Your Donations On Giving Tuesday Hilarious Video On Dealing With Irrationality In Politics To Pin or Not to Pin? 4 Questions to Ask Before Wearing a Safety Pin How To Be A Truly Good Person

    Trending in Communication

    1 50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life 2 A List of 100 Questions to Ask Your Partner on Date Nights 3 21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work 4 The Top 10 Dating Apps That You Won’t Regret Downloading 5 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on October 18, 2018

    50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

    50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Prepare You For Any Challenges In Life

    Life is filled with highs and lows —happiness and struggles that will test your resilience and integrity, push you to overcome challenges and leave you with lessons that will make you even stronger on your way up.

    It’s the way you feel and think about yourself, including your expectations and beliefs about what is possible to you, greatly determines everything that happens to you.

    It all starts with your thoughts. When you change your thoughts, you transform the quality of your life. (Right, Nancy’s story is a typical example!)

    Below is a list of the best motivational quotes to inspire you to start your day with a blast:

    Quotes for self-assurance

    1. Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality, upgrade your conviction to match your destiny.

      2. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

        3. You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.

          4. The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others

            5. You attract what you are, not what you want. If you want great, then be great.

              6. It’s not who you are that holds you behind, it’s who you think your are not.

                Quotes about positivity

                7. Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.

                  8. You should never regret anything in life. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it is experience.

                    9. Falling down is an accident, staying down is a choice.

                    Advertising

                      10. If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.

                        11. Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.

                          12. Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for great.

                            13. Remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually learned from worst times and from the worst mistakes.

                              Quotes for work and success

                              14. Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.

                                15. Never stop doing great just because someone doesn’t give you credit.

                                  16. Discipline is doing what needs to be done, even if you don’t want to.

                                    17. Work while they sleep. Learn while they party. Save while they spend. Live like they dream.

                                      18. The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire, not things we fear.

                                        19. Never apologize for having high standards, people who really want to be in your life will rise to meet them.

                                          20. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

                                          Advertising

                                            21. Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it, time will pass anyway.

                                              22. Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.

                                                23. A hill is just another opportunity to leave your competition behind.

                                                  24. Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.

                                                    25. Hustle until you no longer need to introduce yourself.

                                                      26. You didn’t come this far only to come this far.

                                                        27. Be selective in your battles for sometimes peace is better than being right.

                                                          28 If we keep doing what we are doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.

                                                            29. You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.

                                                              30. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.

                                                                31. The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.

                                                                Advertising

                                                                  32. If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.

                                                                    33. If you can’t handle stress, you won’t manage success.

                                                                      34. Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams.

                                                                        35. Don’t mistake silence for weakness. Smart people don’t plan big moves out loud.

                                                                          36. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

                                                                            37. Obsessed is the word the lazy use to describe dedicated.

                                                                              38. You become who you spend your time with.

                                                                                39. Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.

                                                                                  40. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

                                                                                    41. If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.

                                                                                      42. Between stimulus and response is our greatest power –the freedom to choose.

                                                                                      Advertising

                                                                                        43. What comes easy won’t last, what lasts won’t come easy.

                                                                                          44. Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.

                                                                                            45. Work until your idols become your rivals.

                                                                                              Quotes about money

                                                                                              46. Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.

                                                                                                47. I create new enemies every day, it’s called business.

                                                                                                  48. When you have a Million Dollar vision, don’t surround yourself with 1 cent minds.

                                                                                                    49. You can’t get rich thinking poor.

                                                                                                      50. Doing what is comfortable is rarely profitable.

                                                                                                        51. If you can count your money, work harder.

                                                                                                          If you find yourself feeling lost and frustrated, it’s never too late to change things up. Check out this guide:

                                                                                                          How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                                                                                                          Read Next