Updated: Mar 24
There are many things that can interfere with effective communication. Listed below are some of the more common problems with antidotes to each problem:
Criticism – Complaining by blaming. This may include an attack on the person’s personality, or bringing up a list of criticisms. Research suggests that women are more likely than men to commit this offense, possibly because women initiate 80% of the discussions in any relationship. The way a discussion begins in the first three minutes determines the outcome 96% of the time, based on John Gottman’s research.
Antidote - Complain instead of criticizing by sticking to the facts. Avoid the terms “always” and “never” in your conversation. Stay in the present, and do not rehash old disagreements. Focus on the actions, not the person. Do so by using “I” messages.
Defensiveness – Defending one’s innocence, trying to avoid a verbal attack, counterattacking, whining, denying responsibility for a problem, cross-complaining and taking the innocent victim stance.
Antidote – It is imperative that each person takes responsibility for his or her part of the problem.
Contempt – This occurs when one person acts superior or takes the moral high ground; it is often accompanied by belligerence, insults and/or put-downs. These may be expressed non-verbally, e.g. eye-rolling, smirking, etc. In relationships, this increases fighting in times of disagreement or conflict and is considered the most powerful predictor of divorce.
Antidote – Create a culture of appreciation and acceptance in all of your relationships. Treat people with dignity and respect.
Stonewalling – Withdrawing from an interaction, often due to feeling “flooded” (overwhelmed by negative feelings), negative interpretations, or mind-reading. In relationships, men are reported to be the culprits of this behavior about 85% of the time. It is an attempt to flee the interaction, sometimes due to criticizing, as a way of shutting down emotionally.
Antidote – If you are feeling flooded, recognize the symptoms and take a time out for self-soothing. It is important to set a time to go back to the discussion when you are calm. When flooding occurs because you are anticipating what may come next, try to stop your racing thoughts and challenge the validity of them, as in the case of mind-reading. Often we anticipate the worst case scenario, which may not happen.
Want more help with communication barriers?
Angela Hook, BA. MA
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