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This Is How You Worsen the Relationship Without Noticing

This Is How You Worsen the Relationship Without Noticing

I’ve committed my fair share of relationship faux pas. I wish I could tell you that I get communication right every time, but I am guilty of creating an awkward situation now and then. Studying relationships and cultivating self-awareness has helped me curtail some of my most frustrating subconscious habits. I hope that you can apply these insights to your own life so that you can have healthier and happier relationships.

Whether we’re interacting with friends, coworkers, or a significant other, there are a few pieces of relationship advice that all of us should carry at the forefront of our minds. Here are three things that we do unconsciously to sabotage our relationships.

1. Giving feedback without permission

How many times have you felt driven to give advice even when nobody asked for it?  This communication pitfall usually comes from a place of love and concern. When you love someone, you want them to be good and that’s totally normal. But our compulsion to spew out unsolicited feedback often backfires.

Just like how Ted from the movie “Ted 2” fights with his wife because his wife asked him to get some jobs. The intention is good because they really have bills to kill, but his wife ignored Ted’s stress and whether he needs this advice from her or not. Such comments with good intention ended up turning into a fight.

It happens all the time in relationships when we are so eager to help our partners to improve without thinking whether they need the advice from us. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy,” but sometimes we take it too far. If you hear yourself saying, “I think you should [x]” or “your [x] is not good,” then look out. You’re probably about to give some unwanted advice.

Imagine what happens when you make a comment about a stranger’s outfit. He or she may immediately become defensive because they didn’t ask for your opinion, and you didn’t have permission to give feedback. Most people don’t mind hearing something positive about their clothing choices, but if you are offering a criticism, you are likely to offend the person.

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The Right Approach: If you feel that it is important to give feedback to someone, you have two options for how to approach the subject. You can either ask for their permission to offer feedback, or you can find ways to assure them that they can get constructive feedback from you.

Asking someone for permission to offer feedback doesn’t always work because the person may say that they are not interested in hearing it. If they don’t want to hear what you have to say, would you want to say it? Even if the outcome is not as you would like, asking saves you from offending the person.

Having someone solicit feedback from you can take more time, but it yields better results. I prefer this piece of relationship advice for giving feedback because the recipient is already primed to listen to what you have to say.

For example, imagine that your best friend just purchased new glasses. You might mention that you recently read an article about the best types of glasses for different face shapes. You note that when reading this, you realized that the frames you just pick for yourself didn’t match your face’s shape. Your comments and the knowledge that you have from researching the topic might lead your friend to ask, “How do you feel about these glasses for me?” When they ask you for feedback, they’ve granted you permission to speak your mind.

    Photo credit: Source

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    2. Neglecting their feelings when they need you

    Our emotions fluctuate throughout the day, and unfortunately we can’t be cheerful all the time. We may feel stressed at work, sad about something that happened, or frustrated about not getting what we want. The greatest sadness of all comes from feeling that the person who should know us best of all can’t recognize our feelings of distress.

    Imagine your partner comes home after a stressful day at work. You hear what he or she has to say, and you immediately start giving advice. You think that you are doing your partner a favor by trying to fix the problem. You might say things like, “I don’t think that is the right job for you,” or, “Your boss is mean.”

    You have not only fallen into the first relationship pitfall by giving unauthorized feedback, but you’ve also ignored your partner’s needs in that moment. There may be a time when your partner would like to have a kvetching session or problem-solve, but when he or she first comes home, they may just want someone to listen.[1]

    The Right Approach: Honor your partner’s feelings by listening to them. Use active listening techniques[2] and avoid trying to fix the problem for them right away. Even if the issue seems minor to you, refrain from trivializing their feelings. You can help him or her find perspective later, but at first, just acknowledge their thoughts and emotions.

    Instead of hopping into advice mode or trying to find the silver lining in their tough situation right away, simply ask your partner how they feel. If they’re willing to open up, listen to them. You can affirm them with nonverbal cues or by paraphrasing what they’ve told you. Resist the urge to give feedback! I know it’s hard because you care.

    You will feel emotionally better when someone ask “Are you ok?” when you are sick, than to hear “You should wear enough clothes next time.” Who wants advice when we are sick?

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    We all need time to allow emotions to calm before we are ready to handle feedback. Remember that until they have authorized feedback from you, they will not find it helpful.

    3. Failing to offer feedback at all

    Not giving useful feedback is on the other end of the relationship-pitfall spectrum. The previous problems involved giving too much information, but this piece of relationship advice is borne out of giving too little information.

    Imagine your partner comes to you to take suggestions about where to go on your anniversary. Instead of listing a few options, you respond by saying, “I don’t know,” or “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be fine with whatever you pick.”

    You think you are conveying how flexible you are, but that isn’t the message you’re sending to your partner. He or she came to you because they wanted your feedback, and you just told them that you don’t care or don’t want to take any responsibility for decision-making.[3] You didn’t have to produce a definite answer, but they wanted to see that you were willing to give some input on the matter.

    You ask for feedback because you genuinely wanted help for your problem. When you want input, you may also be working to take the pressure off yourself. When someone fails to give you feedback, they place the onus of decision-making back on you.[4]

    The Right Approach: When someone asks for your feedback, take a moment to consider their request. You don’t have to fix the problem for them, but you might be able to help them think about the situation in a new way.

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    Instead of telling your partner you don’t care where you go for your anniversary, you might say, “I’m not sure, but we haven’t had Italian food in a while. Maybe we could find an Italian place we haven’t tried yet.” By responding in this way, you show your partner that you are both on the same team, and you are willing to help find a solution.

    Remember, this isn’t even about the answer that you give to the person. It’s about your attitude toward their concerns.

    When You Start To Be Aware Of These Problems, You Will Experience Less Conflicts

    At this point, you may be cringing as you think of times when your best intentions have gone awry, but know that you are not alone. I wish that I could tell you that I’ve never given unsolicited advice, ignored someone’s feelings in an attempt to fix a problem, or failed to give helpful feedback when asked, but I have done them all.

    We can’t change what has already happened, but we can use this relationship advice to ensure that the people in our lives feel empowered by our ability to listen and provide feedback when they ask for it.

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    Anna Chui

    Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

    More Articles About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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