In the previous post, Effective Communication: How to Do It, we outlined five communication skills and gave examples of ways to use each one. Here we will talk about some tips for how to start practicing these new skills.
Your Communication Tool Kit
- Be positive.
- Use “I” statements.
- Offer to help.
- Express understanding.
- Be specific.
Reflect on the skills in your communication tool kit. Do you see anything here that might be helpful? Do you see yourself in any of Sally’s communication habits from the last post? Do you believe that the relationship with your loved one might improve if you could put these skills into action? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you will probably benefit from learning how to use these effective communication skills.
Most people report that their relationship with the addicted loved one starts to improve when they begin using these skills. You don’t need to wait for your loved one to change before you improve your communication. Any positive changes you make that improve your communication and relationship are moving both of you in the right direction. Thousands of others have learned these skills and so can you. You don’t need to learn to use them perfectly, but you do need to practice. Below we offer some tips on how to get started.
Tips for Practicing New Communication Skills
- Focus on one skill at a time when learning a set of new skills. You might start by identifying one of the skills above that seems it would be the most useful. Or, perhaps you would like to begin with the skill that you think you could learn more easily. Once you have identified which skill you want to start with, you are ready to practice.
- Practice by writing it down. Start by writing out a typical conversation that you have with your addicted loved one. Then change your part by writing out what you would say if you were using the new skill. Many people find it helpful to write out their responses in advance when facing a difficult conversation. You can do this with any situation that usually results in a communication breakdown. It helps to practice saying it aloud before the actual conversation. Use words that are comfortable to you. Try it out with a friend. Once you feel comfortable with the new skill in the first scenario, try writing out another situation.
- Try the new skill. Identify a situation where you might use the skill. We recommend first trying it in a situation that is less emotionally charged or difficult for you. For example, you might first practice with your child before you use it with your addicted loved one. It can be demotivating to feel like you failed when you begin to use a new skill, so start with easier situations first and then progress to more difficult ones.
- Identify another skill and repeat. After you feel like you can reliably use one skill, then learn and practice a second skill using the steps above. Once you’ve practiced a couple of the skills, try combining them. You can use these skills in multiple situations and with anyone you talk to regularly. Children and teens respond well to this style of communication.
Parting Thoughts on Communication
Although it might be uncomfortable or difficult initially, using new skills gets easier with practice. It’s also important to remember that even slight changes in your communication can lead to better results and increased self-confidence. With practice, you can change how you relate to your addicted loved one, improve your relationship, possibly impact your loved one’s use and develop greater self-confidence.
One caveat. Loved ones may resist initially when we change our behavior or ways of communicating. Don’t let this deter you – it usually means you are doing something right! People don’t like change, but change is required if your situation is to improve. Be consistent with the new behavior, whether it is a new way of communicating or otherwise. Consistency is the key to long-lasting change. When people realize that the new behavior has become the norm, you will notice less resistance. Testing the limits is part of the change process.
If you’d like to get some input from our staff about how to improve your communication, feel free to leave a comment below. You can request help to change a communication breakdown into a more effective communication by writing about your situation here. We will help you come up with a better way to say it. Our staff respond to all comments and questions, so please tell us how we may help you.
If you found this series of posts helpful, you might want to read some of our earlier posts about how to stop nagging, threatening, blaming and arguing with your loved one. These posts can be useful to read when you’re thinking about how to communicate more effectively.