A pothole can be your car’s worst enemy (Tuffy Tire & Auto Service).
What Can Be Your Relationships Worst Enemy?
It just may be your habitual communication style…
Some of us may be traveling a rough relationship road today – because of something we said or didn’t say. Tactless communication purposely or carelessly created distance between ourselves and someone else.
Things went south because we opened our mouths, rolled our eyes, stomped away, sent an impulsive text, flipped a finger, or remained silent. We plowed into a communication pothole and our connection to someone else suffered a blow.
You know how we try to avoid potholes when driving (especially this time of year)? We intentionally do it to protect our cars. And in the same way, we need to intentionally avoid communication potholes in order to take care of our relationships.
7 Communication Potholes to Avoid
It takes effort to improve communication in our relationships, but we can do it. We just need to know which obstacles to avoid and how to avoid them. Here’s a list of common communication potholes to avoid:
1) Communicating ONLY when something is wanted.
How does it feel when someone ONLY reaches out to you because they want something? Whether it’s a coworker, friend, or relative, you probably feel used. After all, their communication style lacks reciprocity and demonstrates no genuine interest in your well-being. It probably leaves you feeling disconnected – and with good reason. Healthy communication fosters a genuine connection.
To avoid this communication pothole: Show people that you care by reaching out to them when you don’t need anything.
2) Ignoring basic courtesy when communicating.
There’s a good reason your mom taught you the importance of saying, “Please” and “Thank you” when you were little. Common civility makes the world run more smoothly. In its absence, entitlement reigns. How do you feel when you offer a kindness and someone receives it as if entitled? Kind of sucks the life out of your gift, right? Lack of courtesy also sucks the life out of our relationships.
To avoid this communication pothole: Remember to be courteous when you communicate (with words, gestures, and tones).
3) Not responding to reasonable requests for contact.
Okay, I’m not talking about responding to 50 million texts from the same person. This pothole is about responses to reasonable requests from coworkers, friends, or family. Suppose a coworker never returns your call to provide information you need to complete a project. Or maybe your adult child moves 5 hours away, and rarely responds to your requests for a return call or email. Or your partner travels for business and never checks in with you while away. Do you feel disrespected, hurt, or angry?
To avoid this communication pothole: Make an effort to respond to reasonable requests for contact from the people who matter to you.
4) Not listening with empathy.
This pothole is about communication without real effort at attention and understanding. Whenever you try to discuss something important with a coworker, they only half listen and respond while multitasking. You explain your feelings to a spouse, but they consistently switch the channel from you to them. Or maybe you say one thing and they hear something else. You just want to be understood, but they want to fix your problem. Do you feel unheard and disconnected?
To avoid this communication pothole: Tune in to the other person when communicating, and try to understand their point of view (even if you don’t agree with it); imagine stepping into their shoes while they speak.
5) Consistently spreading negativity.
This pothole is filled with pessimism. You share your good news with a friend, and they consistently remind you it could disappear at any moment. You say it’s a sunny morning, and they predict a dismal afternoon. A coworker only seems to identify what doesn’t work. You courageously announce an intention to reduce arguing, and your spouse replies with, “You’ll never change”. How does it feel when someone consistently rains on your parade at home or at work?
To avoid this communication pothole: Remember to also look for and acknowledge what works in relationships and situations.
6) Telling “little white lies”, great big lies, and anything in between.
As children we sang, “Liar, liar, pants on fire”. And as adults we know that no genuine trust and connection can be built on deception. Whether great big, or small and white, lying is probably one of the quickest ways to send any relationship up in flames. Or, if you don’t blatantly lie, you may not reveal the truth because you fear how someone else will respond. What’s it like to withhold the truth, and outwardly live as if something else is true?
To avoid this communication pothole: Work to create an environment (at home and at work) where you can safely speak the truth.
7) Chronic nagging.
I’ve heard some people argue that nagging can be helpful. But I don’t buy it. When was the last time you wanted to cuddle up after either nagging or being nagged? Something’s amiss when one partner over-functions (nagger) and the other under-functions (nagged one). Chronic nagging can erode trust and connection in a relationship.
To avoid this communication pothole: If you’re the nagger, learn to make your request and practice trusting your partner to do what they agree to do. If you’re the nagged one, learn to do what you agree to do when you say you will do it.
Steer Communication Wisely
Whether intended or not, when our relationships hit communication potholes, our connection suffers unnecessary damage. And that’s something we can change.
In steering our cars, we routinely avoid potholes. Now it’s time to intentionally avoid communication potholes in our relationships. It will take work, but we can practice steering our communication and our relationships in a better direction!
What other communication potholes can you identify?