Improving Communication Skills through Counseling and Psychotherapy
Just about anyone can find themselves facing communication problems of one sort or another. Innumerable misunderstandings, mishaps, and arguments result from a lack of effective communication, causing business deals to run aground, romantic relationships to sour, and, in extreme cases, even violence and wars.
Very few people are master communicators, while most of us often find ourselves failing to say what we really mean, failing to be heard, or failing to listen.
Communication problems involve a spectrum of behaviors from saying the wrong things at the wrong time in the wrong way to letting anger explode without caring how others perceive or react to it, from keeping feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, fear and sadness bottled up inside to not listening to what others have to say.
Any of these behaviors can cause communication difficulties in any given moment. However, when these behaviors become habitual, they can cause serious strain on all of our relationships, especially our closest ones.
Thankfully, professional counseling and psychotherapy can help almost anyone struggling with communication difficulties, regardless of whether those difficulties are occurring in your personal or professional life.
How Counseling Can Help
Communication issues commonly stem from childhood experiences and our earliest relationships. Instead of learning to exchange feelings with others in healthy ways, we may have been taught to "stuff" our feelings, beat around the bush, hedge our bets, or cause conflict and let our anger explode in order to get attention.
While a professional counselor or therapist can help you learn more effective communication skills that you can put into practice immediately, counseling and therapy can also help you recognize and resolve the underlying causes of the behaviors that are causing you the most problems in your interpersonal relationships. And understanding what's holding you back is often the first step in overcoming an obstacle or moving forward in a new direction.
Assertiveness training is one of numerous communication techniques that counselors and psychotherapists use to help people better understand and improve their interpersonal communications, especially those who have difficulty expressing difficult emotions such as anger.
Assertiveness training involves assessing your default communication style (passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or assertive) in order for you to become more aware of your reactions to others and how you interact with them.
- Passive communicators are commonly timid and shy. They often believe their needs don't matter, or that their needs aren't as important as the needs of others. Passive communicators will commonly do everything they can to please others and avoid any type of confrontation. Unfortunately, the need to please others at their own expense means their needs often go unfulfilled, leading to an increasing lack of self-esteem and/or a resentment of the very people they place above themselves.
- Aggressive communicators can be thought of as the diametric opposite of passive communicators. They often act as if their own needs are the only ones that matter and commonly resort to yelling, threats, accusations, or insults in order to dominate their relationships with others. Aggressive communicators frequently select passive partners and vice versa.
- Passive Aggressive communicators attempt to mask their anger, but it isn't because they place others needs above their own. Instead, passive aggressive communicators express their anger in subtle, passive ways, such as refusing to listen, forgetting things, and remaining silent, and use guilt and manipulation to get their needs met.
- Assertive communicators recognize everyone's needs as being important and attempt to employ honest and neutral language in their communications. Because they know how to express themselves openly while being aware of and helping others to meet their own needs, assertive communicators are rewarded with healthier more productive interpersonal relationships.
In addition to helping clients work on become more assertive in their communications, a professional counselor or therapist can also help you learn relaxation techniques, active listening skills, and how to speak your truth while being respectful of others.
While most people seek counseling or psychotherapy when communication problems arise in their marriages or romantic relationships, better understanding and improving your communication skills can benefit you in all of your relationships, be they with friends, family members, co-workers, employers, or someone you've just met. And better understanding yourself and creating healthier relationships with others can lead to a more fulfilling and rewarding life.
So, if you find yourself struggling with communication issues or notice the same communication problems recurring in your relationships over and over again, it may be time to seek the professional assistance of a licensed counselor or therapist. After all, our relationships define a large part of who we are, don't you want to make sure yours are the best they can be?
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For more information contact:
Haleh Rambod, M.A., MFT
2111 Geer Road, Suite 505-507
Turlock, CA 95382
4100 Moorpark Avenue, Suite 106
San Jose CA, 95117