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Assessing Your Communication…

“Ultimately the bond of companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation.”

Communication is one of the most important building blocks of a healthy relationship. In my work with couples, it’s the area people seem to struggle with the most. Difficulties in communication can be at the heart of many other problems ranging from misunderstandings to assumptions.

Understanding is important…once you start becoming more familiar with your  communication style(s) you will be able to  work better as a team. It is important to remember that effective communication doen’t happen on its own or with the efforts of  only one partner.

There  are several obstacles that can contribute to poor communication between  couples.  Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Contempt: communication is full of insults/put-downs
  • Lack of active listening skills: (see my post on active listening here: http://www.synergeticpsychotherapy.com/2012/01/13/active-listening-101/)
  • Criticism: attacking or blaming the other partner
  • Differing expectations for intimacy independence
  • Cross-complaining: partners do not acknowledge each other’s concerns and desires
  • Blaming or finding fault with the other partner
  • Defensiveness: warding off a perceived attack from a partner (see my post on defensiveness here: http://www.synergeticpsychotherapy.com/2012/01/23/defensiveness-in-your-relationships/)
  • Lack of clarity when sending/receiving messages while communicating
  • Debating the truth/Acting like a “litigator”/Trying to “win”
  • Stalemates/”Digging In”: Each partner takes an unyielding position regarding the solution to the problem
  • Interruptions
  • Over-generalized statements
  • Dichotomous thinking: all or nothing thinking
  • Sidetracking: shifting from one topic to another
  • Vague statements that do not specify particular behaviors and emotions
  • Passive aggressiveness to coerce a partner
  • Selective abstraction: focusing one’s attention on only some aspects of a situation
  • Personalization: a partner concludes that events are related to them, when this is not the case
  • Magnification & Minimization: exaggerating or minimizing the significance of an event
  • Stonewalling/withdrawing

*Source: (Baucom & Epstein, 1990)

Take a look at the communication assessment below. Next to each statement, place a “check” if you agree, and mark the statement with an “X” if you disagree. It’s important to remember that there are no “right” or “wrong” responses. This is a helpful tool which I use with my clients to get a conversation going about communication strengths and areas which might need some focus/improvement.

Section I: My Communication

___ If I am upset, I am able to tell my partner that something is wrong.

___ I try not to criticize my partner.

___ I try not to be defensive in my interactions with my partner.

___ If we have an argument, I try to work things out as opposed to shutting down/stonewalling.

___  I find it easy to see things from my partner’s point of view.

___  When I talk to my partner, I put myself in his or her shoes.

___  I can tell when my partner doesn’t understand what I’m saying.

Section II: My Partner’s Communication

___ My partner usually discusses his/her feelings when things are wrong.

___ My partner doesn’t criticize me.

___ My partner doesn’t get defensive with me.

___ My partner doesn’t shut me out/stonewall when we have an argument.

Section III: Other Communication

___ We listen to each other.

___ We try to deal with and resolve conflicts in a timely manner.

___ We are both open with our feelings.

Source: Baucom, D. H., & Epstein, N. B. (1990). Cognitive–Behavioral Marital Therapy.  New York: Brunner/Mazel.

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