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Improve Communication Skills by Breaking These 10 Toxic Habits

Are you making 1 of these 10 communication mistakes in your relationship? I’m passionate about helping you improve communication skills because I believe it is the key that unlocks joy and happiness in your life.

Where Did You Learn Effective Communication Skills?

You probably learned your effective communication skills (or maybe… not effective communication skills) from your parents and those you were raised around. Were you taught in school about how to improve communication in a relationship? Chances are that you didn’t, and you may have actually grown up without learning what excellent communication skills can look and sound like! 

10 Ways to Improve Communication Skills

Join me as I share 10 common toxic mistakes you may be making and the ways to improve communication skills in your relationships. You can listen here:

 

Timestamps:

[04:13] Communication skills are so important to be a healthy adult.

[06:14] We often fall into old habits and patterns. To change that we have to work on learning new skills and break the old patterns…

[08:56] Interrupting

[10:38] “Shoulding” all over everyone

[11:36] Generalizing (always, never, etc.)

[12:42] Yelling

[14:29] Threats and ultimatums

[16:40] Pointing & physical intimidation

[18:48] Criticizing & name-calling

[19:46] Shaming

[20:51] Stonewalling

Relationships and Arguments go Hand in Hand

Relationships and arguments are inevitable, and this is true for every type of relationship – partnership, parent-child, sibling, colleague, and so on. 

 

Here I am, passionate about developing communication skills, and I just had a spat with my husband. I’ll share, though, that the good communication skills I have learned so far really came in handy in de-escalating the situation and getting us back into a loving space.

How Maturity Affects Relationship Arguments

The outcome of your relationship arguments will heavily depend on what you say and how you act and respond. Even though you’re technically a grown-up, you would be in good company if you still feel like you’re on a journey to become truly “grown-up.”

 

 

Many of us feel like kids inside:

  • We get easily offended and triggered
  • We say things we didn’t need to say
  • We don’t feel in control of ourselves
  • We feel like we’re at the mercy of others 

 

When in conflict, many of us can sink back into a childlike manner. In order to be the adult in the room who knows how to handle conflict well and with equilibrium, developing communication skills is key.

 

10 Toxic Patterns of Arguing & How to Improve Communication in a Relationship

I’m going to share with you 10 toxic mistakes you might be making and alongside them, how to improve communication in a relationship.

 

If you recognize yourself in any of these, realize that it’s okay and that it’s just simply not skillful behavior. This can be your opportunity to replace these toxic patterns with excellent communication skills. 

1. Interrupting

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Interrupting says, “What I have to say is more important than what you have to say.”
  • You may interrupt because you can’t hold back, you’re triggered or annoyed by something the other person said that you have to quickly set them straight, or because you’re afraid that you’ll lose your train of thought. 
  • When you allow yourself to be an interrupter, you’ll be pre-occupied with your rebuttal and won’t actively listen.

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Make a mental note of what you want to say but bring your attention back to listen to what the person is saying.

2. “Should”-ing

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Using words like should, ought to, must, and so on. “You should have…” “You should be…”
  • These phrases introduce a level of judgment and put people on the defensive immediately.

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • When you hear yourself say these words, pause and uncover the request buried in there.
  • Instead of “You should be ____”, flip it and say:
    • “Please, could you ____?”
    • “Would you please ____?”
    • “It would be helpful to me if you ____.”
    • “Are you willing to ____?”

3. Generalizing

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Using exaggerated words like, “always” and “never”. “You’re always late.”
  • These words are very triggering for defensiveness because immediately the other person is going to be looking for ways you’re wrong. Your conflict becomes an ineffective petty argument over facts.

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Soften your approach by using words and phrases like:
    • “I’ve noticed that it can be quite common for you to ____.”
    • “Sometimes:
    • “Lately”
    • “Usually”

4. Yelling

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Most of us grew up in yelling households and feel that we need to raise our voices in order to be heard.
  • Yelling is actually a sign of desperation and a lack of skill.

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • If you really feel like there’s a scream inside of you that must come out, it can be helpful to yell something inaudible like, “aaaauuuuggghhhh!!!!” to get frustrations out.
  • Even better would be to really try and release that energy through deep breaths and lowering your tone of voice to be more calming. 

5. Threatening

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Counting to 3, giving ultimatums, and using phrases like, “If you don’t stop doing that, then ____…” or “If you don’t ____ right now, then I’m going to….” really puts people on the defensive – nobody likes to be threatened. 
  • It feels manipulative, scary, and even violent to receive a threat. 

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Use “when” instead of “if” to still hold a condition. “When you are calmer, ____.”
  • Take responsibility for how you are going to show up. “When you are calmer, I’ll be available to___.” 

6. Pointing

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Pointing and using the word “you” is an aggressive body language that feels like an attack. 
  • Similar to hissing, gritting teeth, towering over someone, furrowing our brow, stomping, trying to seem tougher, scarier, angrier, bigger than we are. 

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Soften your jaw, try to have kind eyes, sit lower down than the person you are arguing with, and relax and open your palms as a gesture of peace. 

7. Blaming

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Focusing your energy on whose fault it was when something goes wrong. The truth is, this is never helpful in a conflict and will not help you find a solution. 

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Instead of looking backward towards blame, look forward and say, “well, it’s happened now. What’s the solution? How can we move forward?”

8. Criticizing

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Criticizing, name-calling, and labeling your partner in conflict triggers defensiveness. “You’re a bully,” “You make things so difficult,” “You don’t listen”, “Stop being such a jerk.”

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Focus your words on what you’re trying to build towards, instead of what you’re trying to get away from. “Please treat your sister gently,” “I would really like your attention,” “Please can you ____?” “I would appreciate it if you…”

9. Shaming

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Clearly expressing your disappointment in someone, or using phrases that indicate they ought to feel ashamed, that they’re unacceptable, that they’re despicable, that they’re unbelievable, that they’re disgusting, repulsive, or any similar label that brings about a sense of shame.
  • Shaming extinguishes that motivation for someone to improve and move forward. 

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Instead, express that, “Whilst I’m really not okay with what happened, I believe in you and we will repair and get past this.”

10. Stonewalling

Toxic Behavior: 

  • Walking away, slamming the door, ignoring, shutting yourself down, being unavailable to the person you are having a conflict with and leave them feeling that they’ve been abandoned, that they don’t know when we’re going to be back or when we’re going to come down from this. 
  • Phrases like, “I can’t deal with this anymore!” “I can’t even look at you!”, or other phrases that make the other person feel like your reaction is their fault. 

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills: 

  • Take a break in the heat of the argument so that the angry feelings can pass and you can come down from your fight or flight mode. However, the key is to do so in a mature way:
    • “I’m having a really hard time right now. I need a break to calm myself down so that I don’t say or do things that I will later regret. I’m going to my room for a few minutes and then I’ll come back and we can reconnect to solve this problem.”

Improve Your Communication Skills on a Deeper Level with this Free E-Book

Now if you want to improve your communication skills further and really deepen your understanding of excellent speaking skills in communication, one of the things I’ve put together for you is an e-book.

 

It’s specifically for partners and it’s all about how we use psychological primers and triggers to influence and persuade each other about important issues.

So if you and your partner-in-conflict are not on the same page about something, I want to offer you the 10 Zen Secrets of Persuasion.

10 Zen Secrets of Persuasion with The Parenting Junkie sitting in a lotus position with toddler boy on her lap.

(And if that sounds sneaky and manipulative to you, it is totally designed to sound that way. Don’t worry, the info is very ethical and psychologically sound.)

Developing Communication Skills for the Whole Family!

Developing communication skills aren’t just for a couple arguing – as you know, conflicts arise between any and all parts of a family unit.

 

Here are some other resources you may find helpful:

 

You CAN Improve Communication Skills in Your Relationship

If you start working on these areas and push past the awkward early stages, you WILL see progress and improve communication skills in your relationship. Don’t give up! 

 

What have you been working on when in conflict? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below!

 

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