So far this week, we have heard several characteristics of bad communication. Today we will finish up with three more: 13. Defensiveness is where you refuse to admit any wrong-doing or imperfection. Defensiveness usually comes out in the form of reacting to what someone is saying by explaining yourself in a manner that is trying to prove why what the other person said is inaccurate. When working with clients, I have them picture their words as a physical entity with shape and form. Each time we share our feelings and needs with someone in a healthy way, it's like we are gently handing them this entity to look at. I picture defensiveness as the person on the receiving end as throwing those words back at the person speaking-- which means that the message is lost and no one feels heard. In counseling, we encourage people to "sit with" a persons words before responding. This can help with preventing defensiveness in communication.
14. Counterattack is where, instead of acknowledging how the other person feels, you respond to their criticism by criticizing them. This usually sounds like "Well... Talk about being inconsiderate! I might have forgotten to get you a card for our anniversary, but YOU never got me a card for my birthday, and that is even MORE inconsiderate!". It's a lot like defensiveness, where each person is keeping score, and neither person ends up feeling heard or validated.
15. Diversionhappens when instead of dealing with how you both feel in the here-and-now, you list grievances about past injustices. In therapy, we call this "gunny-sacking"-- where each time something happens in the relationship that causes disappointment or hurt feelings, the issue isn't address directly, but rather stuffed away in this invisible gunnysack that you carry around with you. Then, once it becomes full of unresolved complaints, in the middle of an argument, you reach into the gunnysack and start pulling out old complaints and use them as weapons. If you can't stay on topic, and resolve each complaint as they arise, little will get accomplished.
So, do you recognize any of the signs of bad communication from this week's blog? If so, how are they impacting your relationships with others? Do you feel closer and intimate, or more misunderstood and unheard as a result of them? Of course, we encourage you to look closely at them and make a commitment to work on resolving them!
As always, thank you for reading this week. We hope to see you next week!
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.