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- Giving analyses
- Swapping morals and values
- Unexamined philosophies and politics
- Using other's actions
- Blaming policies and rules
There are 3 unconscious habits that block effective communication: Making moralistic judgements, Making Comparisons and Denying Personal Responsibility. In a previous article I gave examples of how these create Communication Frustration for everyone involved. This article will show you the other forms those habits can take with spouses, children, friends, and co-workers.
Whenever we think we know why something was said or done based on our opinions we are analyzing. Here's what my wife and I experienced. Whenever my wife would signal that she wanted affection which I wasn't giving her I'd call her "needy and dependent". Whenever I wanted affection my wife wasn't giving I'd call her "selfish and insensitive". As we studied compassionate communication we both realised our analyses were actually expressions of what we both wanted and needed.
Value judgements help us enjoy life by choosing the qualities we value; for instance, we might choose compassion, learning, creativity, or freedom. The values we choose reflect what we think will bring our lives the most joy. Moralistic judgements are different. They oppose people and behaviors not in harmony with our value judgements. When we say "Violence is bad, People who kill are evil" we're expressing a moral judgement. My wife and I learned to transform "Violence is bad" into "I'm fearful of the use of violence to solve conflicts; I value the resolution of human conflicts through other means". It wasn't easy, because as active church members we were routinely exposed to confusion over moral and value judgments. This confusion is deeply rooted in our culture.
This is when we are trying to make others unwillingly do what we want. Manipulation never works because counterproductive emotions like fear or anger are not expressed verbally but in how the person performs what is being demanded, if they perform at all. Things my wife and I discovered: my wife telling me how her best friend's husband is such a handy man never made me cut the grass when or how she wanted. Me telling my son, who has dyslexia, how his older gifted brother taught himself to read - this never made my younger son read faster. Even if you have good intentions (like we thought we did) manipulations are guaranteed to wound yourself and others deeply.
Philosophy is how you see the world. Politics is how you live in it. We were surprised how our Philosophy and Politics caused so many unintentional conflicts. There were many ideas, friendships, and opportunities lost to us because of unexamined philosophies and politics that dominated our communication. Most conflicts over Philosophy or Politics are really about comparisons of each others moral judgments believed to be facts.
This is when we shift our personal responsibility based on other's behavior we make others responsible for us. Some examples from John and Kay: When I tell my wife I was yelling at the kids because of their bad table manners, this makes them responsible for my outburst. When I accept a golf invitation with my buddies after promising the kids I'd hang out, it makes my friends take responsibility for my commitments. Perhaps you'll be familiar with these as well: "I lied because my boss told me too", "I hate my job, but because I'm a wife and mother I go.", "I work long hours because my boss says I have to". People are always dangerous when they're unaware of their responsibility for how they behave, think, and feel.
Placing blame on policies, rules, and management denies our personal responsibility. You're likely to experience this with statements like. "Those are the rules, there's nothing we can do", "Sorry, no exceptions", "All companies do business that way", "My boss said it wouldn't matter", "Our policy is not to make exceptions", "We've always done it that way". Blaming policies, rules, and management attempts to justify our behavior and decisions.
There is a lot to consider here. While you are considering it, have compassion with yourself and what you find. You're not broken, in need of fixing and there isn't anything wrong with you. Place attention on where these habits are showing up and creating unintentional conflict for yourself and others. Just patiently observe how you interact with people. You can also share this article with your spouse or friends and ask which ones they think show up most.
Are your conversations creating unintentional conflicts? You're not alone. Life Strategiest John Reisinger, can help you learn remarkably effective communication skills to create conversations that connect with those you love and work with. See how he and his wife transformed their 14 yr marriage with Compassionate Communication.
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