Good communication — sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference.
We all know that good communication is a bedrock of a successful relationship, whether it’s a positive parent-child bond, the first few days of a new friendship, or the start of a budding romance.
You may think that you have the basics of good communication mastered — you listen, you share appropriately, you seek clarification on points you do not understand, you make sure that your body language fosters trust, and so forth. However, there are certain errors in communication that we may make on a regular basis without even knowing it. Taking your interpersonal connections to the next level entails becoming aware of such mistakes and taking care to avoid them.
The Danger Of Comparison
One of the most common communication pitfalls is our tendency to draw comparisons. In many situations, it is entirely appropriate to compare two or more items or situations. For instance, at work, you may describe a piece of software as being “harder to use” or “nicer to look at” than a previous version. This is fine. Such comparisons help other people. However, comparisons are not so harmless in personal relationships.
Why? Simply put, when you make a comparison, you are making a judgement. An obvious example is the comparisons that parents sometimes make between children. We all know that hearing “Why can’t you be as smart/tidy/nice as your sister/brother?” is only going to damage a child’s self-esteem. However, it is important to watch out for so-called “good” comparisons too.
Whenever you make a judgement, someone usually comes out feeling like a loser, even if your intentions are positive. For instance, if you attempt to compliment someone by telling them that they look like a particular celebrity, you are implying that they are not an attractive person in their own right. Rather, they are only worthy of attention because they happen to resemble someone else. To take another example, let’s say that you are a piano teacher who tells one of their students, “Keep practicing, and one day you could be as good as my best student!” This may seem encouraging initially, but just as in the previous example, such a comparison detracts from the innate worth and value of whoever is subject to it.
If You Want Someone To Change, Try A Different Strategy
Often, when we make comparisons, we secretly wish someone could or would be different. This is a losing battle because getting other people to change, especially if they do not want to change themselves, can be extremely difficult. Instead, it is often more fruitful to take one of the following two approaches.
First, the best tactic is to work on appreciating and accepting the other person for what and who they already are. This may be tricky at first, but keep reminding yourself of what you like about this person and what joy they bring to your life and you’ll be halfway there. It is better to praise and compliment someone based on who and what they are right now than to express, subtly or not, that they would be better if only they would change.
The second strategy is to be a role model. For example, if you would like your friend to be more outgoing and to take the initiative when planning social outings, why not aim to develop these qualities in yourself? We tend to imitate those we respect, so if you have a strong relationship with someone, modelling positive behaviours can encourage positive change.
However you tackle the situation, remember to cut down on those comparisons!