Jamie knew her family had a problem when she realized most of their fights ended in slamming doors, screaming matches, cussing, and the occasional breaking of someone’s property.
At first, Jamie felt angry and helpless. This wasn’t what she’d envisioned when she’d dreamed of starting her own family as a little girl. She’d wanted to build something that was the complete opposite of her chaotic childhood home.
But now it seemed she’d failed. Discouraged, Jamie started attending counseling sessions by herself. She asked the counselor if there was any hope for her marriage and kids.
“Should I just accept things the way they are?” She wondered.
Unfortunately, Jamie’s not alone. Many families struggle with unhealthy communication. This can be due to a variety of reasons—everything from trauma and past hurts to personality and temperament.
The good news is that things don’t have to stay this way anymore. Here are three behaviors that disrupt communication and what you can do about them…
Behavior #1: Name Calling
Everyone’s had a moment where they called someone else a name in anger. Maybe you used something offensive and hurtful term like whore, bitch, or bastard. Or perhaps you went for what you consider a small insult like jerk, loser, or dweeb.
Regardless of the word you chose, name calling during an argument indicates a lack of respect for the other person. It’s often hurtful and shuts down communication which is the exact opposite of your goal.
If you’re in the habit of name-calling during arguments, it can be hard to stop. When you do find yourself calling a loved one a name, immediately call a time-out and apologize on the spot. You can say something simple like, “That wasn’t fair to call you ABC just because I disagree with you. I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?”
Behavior #2: Blaming
From the very beginning of time, humans have been quick to pass the buck. No one wants to take responsibility when something goes wrong. Whether it’s as simple as forgetting to fill the tank with gas or more complex like watching porn behind your partner’s back, it’s tempting to blame someone else.
But let’s be real here: you can’t grow as a person if you’re not willing to take responsibility for your actions. You also hurt your relationship and those around you with your stubborn refusal to own up.
When you find yourself blaming the other person in an argument, call for a timeout again. Then be honest about what you’re doing. You might say, “I’m blaming you for my failure to balance the checkbook when I said I would. That’s my fault and it’s on me. I’m sorry for blaming you.”
Behavior #3: Shaming
Sometimes, people use shaming in argument. They do it because shame is an effective weapon to manipulate others. It gets them to do what you want and, in the moment, having your way can feel pretty darn good. Shame can be subtle (you ate all of that?) or outright (you had no business eating that!).
But the problem with using shame to communicate is that it damages your relationship and it hurts the other person. At its core, shame is about making the other person feel small so you can feel big.
When you find yourself shaming a loved one, take a timeout and apologize. You might say something like, “You know what? It’s not my business what or how much you ate. I’m sorry if I made you feel bad. I think you’re awesome and I love you.”
If you’ve been using any of these three methods to communicate during an argument, it can feel difficult to change your communication style at first. But don’t give up! Keep working on it and soon you’ll be reaping the benefits of better communication with your loved ones.