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Are Communication Skills Overrated?

Learning great communication skills is excellent except that in the heat of battle no one can use them! This is especially true when the conversation involves a loved one. So, what's the purpose in attending or reading the hundreds of books, workshops, articles and seminars on this topic? You're about to find out.

But first let's go over some basics of good talking and listening skills:

  1. Use "I" statements

  2. Speak for yourself

  3. Be specific

  4. Use feeling words

  5. Share specific desires

  6. Attend fully to your partner

  7. Acknowledge their experience

  8. Clarify

  9. Summarize

  10. Be aware of facial expression

  11. Be aware of tone

  12. Be aware of physical posturing

These are just a few of the basics. I could go on to identify deeper levels of active listening and empathy building skills but that will be for other articles. 

The question here is, "How important are good communication skills?" The answer is "VERY." But not for the reasons you may think. What's important to know is that all couples and families do it wrong and even as I phrase it in this manner, I'm unsure if using the word "wrong" in this sentence is appropriate. It would appear that most couples and families, if not all, break all of the "rules" when it comes right down to getting in the trenches of an argument.

Here is why it's vital to have a good knowledge of active listening skills.

Intentional Conversations

This is a conversation which you've given some thought to beforehand. You have certain hopes for the outcome of the conversation. Your partner and you have a general understanding about the ground rules for such a conversation (active listening skills). This is one time when knowing these skills can prove to be quite helpful.

The Amends Conversation

If you are well versed in advanced communication skills and hit below the belt you will have a sense of having blown it. You might even same something to that effect in your head, either during or after an argument. Knowing active listening skills can allow you to catch yourself during or after a fight so that you can make appropriate amends for things said that hurt your partners feelings.

Growing Into Communication Skills

After years of training and teaching communication skills my wife and I still mess it up and have to access the Amends Conversation noted above. But, if you had been a fly on the wall observing an argument 17 years ago, compared to today you'd notice some obvious differences. We are still prone to be our passionate selves, especially me, but we seem to have 'grown into' these active listening skills more and more over the years. We begin these conversations more softly, are better listeners and we both trust the other cares about the needs of the other. 

Good communication skills, which may not feel natural to you in the heat of battle, will grow on you over time. The final message? Good communication skills, often called "active listening skills," are essential, though expecting each other to be able access them in the midst of an argument may not be a fair expectation.

Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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"Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret."

  ~ Dr. Lawrence J. Peter


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