Win Today with Christopher Cook

Your Roadmap to Wholeness (From the Inside Out).

5 Communication Mistakes that are Destroying Your Relationships

Experiencing (or delivering) bad communication is like driving your vehicle into a brick wall. Allow me to set it up: you think you are headed in the direction of making meaningful progress until it becomes glaringly apparent that you are headed towards a collision. And like life, sometimes you can hit the brakes before major damage occurs. However, at other times, all you can do is hope the impending fate won’t be as devastating as it appears.

Perhaps it’s an unintentional (but massively embarrassing) faux pas. Perhaps it’s a petty argument that got way out-of-hand. Even worse, it may be two people talking without ever making any meaningful connection.

Quality Check

Whether your communication is with a spouse or significant other, supervisor, co-worker, or friend, it is imperative that you regularly take time to gauge the quality of communication within those relationships. Why? Because anyone that wants to live a life of significance and lasting impact knows that the foundation of success in that regard relies heavily upon effective communication with others.

Totally unlike the muffin man.

Take Breaths, Bro

A few months ago, I was at a local coffeehouse with friends. Prior to their arrival, I sat and enjoyed one of my favorite pastimes: people-watching. Across the room, a first date was unfolding before my eyes. Nervously, each individual scraped for small talk. The young girl oozed magnetic attraction, but not for her date. She was glued to her phone. On the other side of the fence, in unflinching rhythm, the young man rattled off talking points like an episode of Family Feud while he destroyed a muffin. And I mean destroyed. The poor thing didn’t stand a chance. As he tore into that thing like Tiny Tim on a Christmas ham, all I could think was “breaths, bro…take breaths.”

Humor aside, was their communication effective? Certainly not. Granted, they were nervous teenagers on a first date, but the example proves the point that relationships flourish where healthy, dynamic, mutual communication thrives. In another instance, I’m reminded of an experience I had while sitting in an airport last September. Awaiting a flight to Nashville, I caught myself listening in on one man’s very boisterous conversation with a colleague seated to his right. He wasn’t mad. He wasn’t even yelling. He was, however, very definitive as displayed by his body language, very quick to respond without listening, very sure about his perspective, and to be honest, very condescending in his tone of voice. Quickly glancing in his direction, I noticed his colleague’s countenance dripping with humiliation.

That exchange was poor communication at its finest and was sure to birth future distrust, resentment, and apathy.

The fact is that we all have areas within our relationships that can grow and become healthier. However, there are five crippling behaviors that choke the health right out of your most valued relationships, whether personally or professionally. Grow in these areas and experience a wellspring of life. Ignore these warning signs and risk stunting the growth and vitality of the greatest asset in your arsenal: people.

5 Communication Mistakes that are Literally Destroying Your Relationships

1.) You half-listen and talk-over people.

Dealing with a personality type like this is exhausting, isn’t it? Like the man at the airport gate, people who continuously half-listen and talk-over others usually have one agenda and one priority: themselves. Solomon, in Proverbs 18:2, best explains this behavior: “A [self-confident] fool has no delight in understanding but only in revealing his personal opinions and himself.”

As such, one of the most unproductive things you can do in relationship communication is allow your mind to formulate an answer while the other person is talking because it distracts you from absorbing the heart behind the message. And active listening is just that: active, present, and deliberate. So slow-down and validate the person with whom you’re speaking. When you care about the relationship, the communication is not the primary issue; the relationship is.

On the topic of active listening, watch this clip from a legendary sitcom:

2.) You assume.

When I was younger, my mom taught me a funny way to memorize the spelling of the word “assume.” You might have heard it, too: “When you assume, you make an a—“…well, you get the point, but it’s true. Often, assumption comes across as arrogance because it communicates “I already know what you’re about to think, say, and do, so I’ll help us both not waste our time and get to the point for you.” Have you ever been in conversation with someone who has run you over with their comments and completely hijacked the heart of your communication? I have (very recently, in fact), and it hurts. To that end, until you actually listen to people before speaking, you do not know how they think and feel in a given situation.

3.) You generalize.

I’ve seen this occur a lot with dating and married couples, especially when I facilitated premarital financial counseling sessions. Statements like “you never” and “you always” undermine the relationship because “never” and “always” are almost always exaggerated in the heat of the moment. Worse yet, generalized statements are manipulative in nature.

So I ask: How often do you use manipulation in your communication? The truth is that making generalized statements does not work. In fact, it’s false communication that breaks down the relationship at its core. Whenever you speak, you should consider to whom you’re speaking and what you know about them so you know what to say and how to say it in order to effectively deliver your communication.

4.) You tell half-truths.

Half-truths are about as good as a complete lie and point to a breakdown in the relationship because either party has not upheld the value for complete trust. In order to build lasting rapport with anyone, you must be committed to communicating the full truth 100% of the time. Even when mistakes are made, honesty reinforces value for the relationship and confidence in an individual’s character.

5.) Your nonverbal communication is opposite of your intention.

What you say is important, but how you say what you say is even more important. 80% of all communication of meaning is non-verbal. That means the unintentional scowl you had on your face as you spoke to an employee or co-worker yesterday resonated much more than the words that came out of your mouth. So when you’re in everyday conversation, practice speaking with a smile on your face and without your arms folded; it will make a world of difference!

Effective communication is a skill that you can develop, but do you know what trumps skills all day long? Passion. If you’re not passionate about the person sitting across from you, you might as well stuff your face with a muffin.

Speaking of the muffin man, I’m not sure he got a second date.