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Getting our needs met takes communication skill whether we feel anxious, depressed, or on top of the world.
We spend a fair amount of time in both casual and intimate relationships negotiating how to spend time and resources. What to do on a quiet Sunday afternoon, which movie or restaurant to try, who pays for the pizza, and how much time is spent together are all things that require discussion.
If you frequently come away from a negotiation feeling defeated, frustrated, sad, or empty, it may be your style of negotiation is not working for you. Sometimes our habitual behavior gets in the way of communication effectiveness.
Ineffective communication habits are not a life sentence. Change is usually a matter of acquiring effective negotiating skills and practicing them. Learning the skills in a group setting (e.g., communication class, therapy group) is ideal since you have other learners to practice with.
Most who tend to accommodate are individuals who dread conflict and would rather keep the peace than defend their position. At times, choosing to accommodate someone is an acceptable option, but accommodating by default out of perceived powerlessness or fear means a person has no other behavior options.
People who routinely attack or defend think of the other side as an enemy, out to conquer at all costs. Occasionally going on the offensive can be a wise communication option, but attacking or defending by default without being able to explore the middle ground means a person has no behavior options.
People who frequently create negotiation stalemates believe they are right, and the other side is wrong, so they tend to be unyielding. There are times when a person knows their view is best and choosing to push for it is a healthy option. However, becoming entrenched by default out of assumed righteousness means the person has no other options.
Those who continuously refuse to get involved in negotiations may actually be avoiding real, distressing life issues such as abusive relationships, or drug addiction. A person might now and again choose to avoid a discussion for logical reasons, but consistently avoiding honest, potentially self-revealing communication means the person has no other behavior option.
To be a good communicator, to get our needs met and help others do the same, we need behavior options to choose from. Our habitual, default ways of speaking and acting made sense when we developed them at an earlier age, but they do not always work now.
What holds us back in life, or keeps us feeling stuck, is often not who we are but how we do things. Without effective communication and behavior options to choose from, we do what comes automatically—it is all we know.
If life or relationships are not going well, it is unfair to blame our being or character. Getting on in the world requires skills that many of us enter adulthood not knowing, because our parents did not know them either. Fortunately, they are not difficult to learn.
Photo credit: Rennett Stowe / flickr
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