Advertising
Advertising

A Fatal Communication Mistake That Many Of Us Are Not Aware Of

A Fatal Communication Mistake That Many Of Us Are Not Aware Of

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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!

More by this author

Jay Hill

Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

Focus On Yourself, Because Most Of The Time No One Really Cares 30 Ways To Treat Yourself No Matter What 3 Things To Give Up If You Want To Take Control Of Your Life All You Have to Do to Sleep Better How Social Media Is Making You Feel Bad about Yourself Every Day

Trending in Communication

1 6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak 2 How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic 3 How to Stop Living on Autopilot with Antonio Neves 4 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life 5 40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

Advertising

Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

Advertising

How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

Advertising

Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

Read Next