What is one definite way to ruin communication, trust and intimacy in your relationships? Passive-Aggressive behaviors and indirect communication. In our relationships, we are constantly communicating-- We can not NOT communicate, even when we aren't saying anything verbally. Unfortunately, passive-aggressive ways of communication don't get an accurate message across to the receiver and usually create more problems instead of resolving them. Some of the most common passive-aggressive or indirect ways of communicating to remove from your life, which can help prevent you from sabotaging relationships are: Silent Treatment- Silent treatment is when you stonewall someone and refuse to speak to them or acknowledge them. It is purposefully withholding communication (much like pouting) as an indirect form of "punishment" to the other person when you are hurting. Silent treatment is a child-like way of behavior, where one person refuses to speak openly and directly about what is impacting them, leaving the people around them to "guess" what is wrong. When you ask someone who is giving the silent treatment if everything is okay, they may refuse to speak, or say "nothing", even though their nonverbal/body language is telling the exact opposite. It can be extremely confusing and frustrating!
Stuffing- happens when a person holds in all of their feelings, pretending like everything is fine on the outside, when they are really hurting or upset on the inside. Usually, we see this eventually result in an eruption of emotion (like anger or reactivity), that causes a great amount damage to a relationship. Stuffing feelings causes many relationships to end, if enough damage is done over time. It's also confusing to the other people on the receiving end, because when they think everything is "okay", they can be caught off-guard by the barrage of complaints and feelings that come out during the eruption. It damages trust to a relationship because the people around the "stuffer" don't trust that they will know the truth of what that person feels at any given moment (Are they really okay, or is this going to come back to hurt me later?).
Nagging- Nagging is a complaint to another person in a critical and judging way that doesn't specifically address what that person is truly feeling or needing. It doesn't allow the person on the receiving end to understand specific behavioral changes that can make the situation better. Nagging also has a rather strong likelihood of wearing down both the nagging person, as well as the person on the receiving end. It can end up causing a person (on the receiving end) to feel like a situation is hopeless, like they can't do anything right, and can create a lot of distance in relationships.
Withholding- Much like silent treatment, withholding is a silent way of "punishing" another person. It can include withholding communication, but also includes things like withholding intimacy, compliments or kind words, attention, affection, sex, money, or information. Withholding usually shifts the power balance in a relationship, causing one person to feel as though they aren't an equal. It can feel disrespectful and much like a parent-child relationship (except with someone who should be on an adult level with you).
Do you recognize any passive-aggressive or indirect ways of communicating that you can remove from your life? Try it out, and see what kind of positive changes happen as a result!
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.