Monday, December 5, 2011

Communication Itch

How many times do you sit at a meeting, have dinner with a friend or are on the other end of the phone with someone and feel as though you are sitting on what you REALLY want to say? I’m sure we have all done this to some extent. In today’s blog post, my intern Narmeen Iqbal, talks about how she dealt with this situation which she calls the “Communication Itch”

Surely, all relationship experts agree that communication is the key to a happy, healthy and long lasting relationship. Though I can’t help wondering how many of us actually use this powerful tool to transform our relationships.

I once suffered from what I would like to call a, “communication itch” meaning that I wanted to express my true inner feelings in some way but I always found non-constructive ways of going about it. For example, one of my best friends frequently would call me or wanted to see me whenever she needed help with something but never to ask about my wellbeing, for a while I let this behavior slide by thinking that she might realize it on her own. As time passed by I started to distance myself thinking that there is no point telling her that I feel used by her. One day she asked me if I wanted to hang out and I agreed, however, I didn’t make an effort to talk much. Basically, I was giving her the silent treatment thinking that I was punishing her for using me for her own purposes. This went on for quite some time.

I think it’s hard not to look back at anyone’s past and analyze what method of communication they may have been using. Generally, we all usually like to stick to methods that work for us in the past even if it’s completely useless in achieving results. Giving someone the silent treatment was my particular maladaptive method of communicating. I figured change in behavior might catch the attention of the other person.

So, in my friendship I settled for what I already knew, which was to hide my true inner feelings because I was afraid of being rejected if I spoke the truth. After enormous silent treatments, my friendship started to fall apart, we started to become strangers and my friend didn’t know why I was acting strange. Keeping my distance started to hurt me deeply but I was still afraid to speak up. So I decided that I needed help educating myself on effective communication skills because I wanted to speak the truth without hurting myself or my best friend.

I decided to seek treatment for my communication itch; Since I hadn't met Robyn yet, I went to a self-help department of a bookstore, which is dreaded by most people. I picked up a few books and taught myself the art of communication and yes indeed it is an art that requires skills training. Here are four useful tips that I found to be very helpful:
  1. Acknowledge: I believe that the first thing to do is acknowledge the other person’s emotions and find some truth to it.
  2.  Empathy: See the world from someone else eyes.
  3. “I” is more powerful then, “you” when expressing your own emotions.
  4.  Respect: Remember that you are always equal to the other person, nothing less and nothing more.

 After educating myself I felt confident enough to ask my friend out for dinner and she agreed. I was a bit hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure how she would take the truth but I took my chances. I started to explain to her that I feel the reason I am been giving her the silent treatment and not keeping in touch is because I feel like she used me. I acknowledged that she might not have even been aware of her own actions. She was surprised because she had no idea. She told me that if that’s how I felt then I needed to speak up right there and then because she wasn’t aware of it or how it was effectively me and our friendship. I agreed with her and empathized. I went on to express my feelings, using the concept of, “I” rather than “you”. For example, I told her, “I felt hurt by her actions” rather than saying, “you hurt my feelings”, “I” sounds more personal, “you” sounds like you are attacking the other person and that person might become defensive. We started to see each other views and realized that we need to communicate more often about own feelings.

After practicing my effective communication skills, I learned to own up to my feelings and  that I shouldn’t be afraid to speak up because if I don’t, then I’m not speaking the truth. I used the same skills in my other relationships with other people such as family, friends and colleagues. That’s how I cured my communication itch!

If you feel you are suffering from a “Communication Itch” try these steps, Narmeen recommends. I highly recommend them. If you need help with any of the four steps, contact me And I can help walk you through them during a one on one session.

Here is what a recent client had to say after her second session. “I really felt like our session last week was a breakthrough for me.  I felt so much more confident at work and feel that I found my voice again.  Thank you so much for this.

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