OK – let’s be realistic. The Saying What Matters lady loves that! We’ve all been guilty of one or more of the patterns listed below. But rest assured – these irritating communication strategies rarely gain us any brownie points and they are often quite destructive. Get curious as you read this list and see where you might fit.
The Detour Taker
You begin to talk about the topic at hand and then a key word or idea suggests another topic and off you go on a new conversation tangent. Follow a logical pattern in conversation with others and avoid frequent and long detours.
The Complainer and the Doomsayer
Obvious – you complain about everything and everyone. You are the ultimate negative thinker. No matter what anyone says, you will find the cup half empty and go out of your way to point that out. Be positive and emphasize what is good before what is bad.
You seem to think you have the inside track on right and wrong. You sprinkle the conversation with “you shoulds”, telling others what to do. Avoid evaluation and judgement; see the world through the eyes of the other person.
The Inactive Responder
You may be listening but the other person would never know it from the lack of reaction you show. Respond with both verbal and nonverbal messages.
Mention anything, and you have a story on hand that will make other people wish they had never started speaking to you in the first place. Talk about yourself in moderation.
You missed your professional calling; you should have been a police officer or a lawyer. You seem to do nothing but ask questions. No sooner does a person answer one than you are dishing up another. Ask questions in moderation – to secure needed information and not to get every detail imaginable.
The truth is, you are only interested in yourself. If the conversation doesn’t revolve around you, forget it. Focus on the other person as an individual; listen as much as you speak and speak about the listener at least as much as you speak about yourself.
You listen only as long as necessary for you to take issue with what’s being said. Others barely have time to get their mouth open and begin speaking before you jump at them with an argument. Be supportive, and only argue when it is appropriate; focus arguments on issues and behaviours rather than on personalities.
The Thought Completer
You know exactly what everyone is going to stay before they get it out, so you say it for them. Don’t interrupt; assume that the speaker wants to finish his or her own thoughts.
The disclosures you make are often too personal, sometimes to a point that they make others feel uncomfortable. Disclose selectively, in ways appropriate to your relationship with the listener.
You assume that whenever anyone expresses a doubt or talks of a decision, he or she wants your advice. Avoid giving unsolicited advice and don’t assume that the expression of a problem is asking you to come up with a solution.
You analyze everything other people say, offering psychological explanations clothed in psycho-babble. If people want to talk to a therapist they can go and do that. Be a friend, lover, or parent instead.
There you have it! The Dirty Dozen of Communication Patterns. See if you can catch yourself in the act. Awareness is the first step.