Roadblocks in communication

Lately I’ve been asked a lot by students how they make and maintain relationships. Not just intimate ones but friendships, family, roommates, and their peers in classes. When I stopped to think about it this a question that comes up all across the year but seems more frequent right now at the beginning of semester and the prospect of new friends, peers and living arrangements are here. I wrote about making friends and how to build healthy relationships last year so this time I thought I might focus elsewhere.

Whilst I usually try and focus on the positive with tips of what to do on here I thought today I might post some of the things to avoid when establishing and maintaining relationships*.

  • Judging the other person – either through criticising them or their actions, applying a stereotype to them, telling them what you think their problem is, or giving them praise like parents and teachers do to encourage a change in behaviour.
  • Offering solutions – either by giving someone direct orders to follow, threatening them with the consequences of not doing what you want, or by advising them on what the solution to their problem is.
  • Avoidance of their concern – pushing aside the person’s problem, offering a logical explanation and ignoring the emotional factors, or offering reassurance to try and stop them feeling the negative emotions they are experiencing.

These roadblocks can diminish someone’s self-esteem, lead to feelings of inadequacy, social withdrawal, trigger defensiveness and feelings of resentment which can damage the relationship. Using roadblocks from time to time is OK, natural even, but using them consistently and it’s likely to lead to a head on collision and the relationship being a “write off”.


*If you are interested in reading more about relationship and communication skills then try People Skills: how to assert yourself, listen to others and resolve conflicts by Robert Bolton.

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