Healthy Relationships, Part 4 - Communication
By Dawn Obrecht, M.D.
...lack thereof is a crucial ingredient in the establishment of unhealthy relationships.
Try these proven techniques:
- Be self-centered and preoccupied with your own issues. Depending on your mood, acknowledge others randomly. Say hello or not, snub or greet, not caring what the other person may feel. Be unpredictable. No problem; hurt the ones who love you. They'll get over it.
- When you are angry with yourself, take it out on everyone around you, behaving as if you are angry with them. When asked what is wrong, ignore them or say, "nothing."
- Do not return phone calls, emails, text messages or any other communication you receive. If asked, deny receiving it. If pressed, give some excuse about how busy you are. Give people your email address but never check your account; give out your cell phone number but leave the phone uncharged and unanswered most of the time.
- When you see people with whom you have had an interaction of any kind, a friend, coworker or other acquaintance, simply look the other way and refuse to acknowledge them. If they speak, pretend you do not hear.
- Do not show up for appointments, meetings or other events where you are expected. If you must show up, do so as late as possible, offering no apology or explanation, at best mumbling a lame excuse.
- Assume your closest family and friends, including spouse or significant other, know your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, wishes, opinions and expectations. Do not bother to tell these people, just assume they can and do read your mind. If they can't, they don't care about you.
- Add your own favorite unhealthy communication method here______________.
While less controversial than my usual topic of drug use, healthy relationships, how and of what are they made, is an important subject and communication is a vital part of any relationship. Addicts, those in recovery as well as those still in active addiction, are high (sorry) on the list of people who have difficulty communicating. Like recovery, healthy relationships require taking responsibility for oneself, including communicating.
In contrast to the above methods, try this:
- Get out of yourself, become aware of others, treating them as you want to be treated....hmmm...sounds somewhat familiar.
- Be cognizant of how your behavior affects your friends and family. If you are upset about something random, reassure those close to you that it is not about them.
- Be responsive: acknowledge the communications of others, even if it is to say you cannot talk now, but will contact them when you are able.
- Smile, make eye contact and say hello.
- Treat invitations with courtesy, accept or decline, follow through when expected...especially if you are being counted on to bring food to a potluck!
- Communicate clearly and directly. You are responsible for getting your message across. Are you so self-centered as to believe your friends and family read your mind?
- If you have something to say, a request, a need or anything else, say it. Stop spending time thinking about it, planning it, going over and over it in your head...say it once. No Haranguing!
- Listen to the person attempting to communicate with you. Focus and pay attention, allow him his turn and do not interrupt.
- Never "you" or "should" on anyone, but do share experience, giving advice only if asked.
For a special communications:
- Put it in writing, in a card or note. Email does not usually convey a tone and can be easily misinterpreted. A hand written card is entirely different, can say much between the lines and the tone usually obvious. Consider including flowers or cookies.
- Say it in front of others. This is a great way to communicate a compliment to a child or spouse...tell him, or tell someone else in front of him, how wonderful he is.
When in doubt, be thoughtful, respectful, and give extra hugs!
Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver firstname.lastname@example.org.