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Become a better communicator: Learn how to effectively discuss issues versus arguing

Communication is the key to any successful relationship, be it personal or professional. If you never ask for what you need, it’s not likely your needs will ever be met.

“The more we are comfortable with somebody, the more we sometimes forget that they can’t read our minds," said Relevé Counseling therapist, Jessica Olmo. "You get to know somebody and you... intuitively expect things, but sometimes we forget that’s not always the case.”

There are two key components to effective communication: speaking and listening.

“Com[e] up with that balance of what you need versus what they need. Come to a middle ground.”

“You” statements like, “You always do this,” or “You never listen,” are surefire ways for a conversation to spiral into a full-blown argument.

“It tends to come off as an accusation because you’re frustrated. You are accusing somebody and putting them into a defensive mode versus a listening and communication mode.”

Instead, open with an “I” statement. “I” takes the pressure away from the other person. “I” am sharing my thoughts and feelings versus the confrontational “You” statement.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) addresses interpersonal effectiveness and uses, DEAR MAN to improve communication:

  • Describe: Stick with the facts. Tell the other person what you are reacting to:

    • DO: “You keep asking me, but my answer is always going to be, ’No.’”

    • DON’T DO: “You obviously don’t care about what I have to say.”

  • Express: Share your feelings and opinions. Don’t assume the other person knows how you feel:

    • DO: “This is becoming uncomfortable for me to keep discussing this.”

    • DON’T DO: “Every time we talk about this, you get defensive.”

  • Assert: Ask for what you want/need. You can’t assume the other person will know:

    • DO: “Let’s cool down, regroup, and come up with a solution.”

    • DON’T DO: “Just do it my way. You know I’m right.”

  • Reinforce: Explain the positives that come with getting what you need or want. Alternatively, convey the consequences if you don’t:

    • DO: “This is getting frustrating for both of us. Let’s try to come up with something that will make you more willing to do it.”

    • DON’T: “If you don’t do this for me, then don’t be surprised if I don’t do anything for you.”

  • Mindful: Stay on topic, focus on your goals, and ignore attacks.

  • Appear Confident: Make eye contact, have confidence in your voice and body language.

  • Negotiate: Offer a solution to a problem and be willing to accept suggestions.


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