Meta-Communication and Assertive Communication Skills


Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

The following post is submitted by a young man in his mid-twenties. He describes meta-communication and assertive communication skills and how he has applied these to turn around his poor communication learned from very violent, abusive and negative childhood experiences.


Meta-communication is communicating about how we are communicating: how a message or information is delivered, and is meant to be interpreted. It is based on the idea that the same message accompanied by various verbal and non-verbal deliveries can make a message mean something totally different, including its opposite, as in irony. For example, two people may discuss certain body language such as rolling the eyes, frowning or a shrugging of the shoulders to determine what message is being conveyed.

Assertive Communication uses both verbal and non-verbal communication to respect the boundaries of yourself and others. It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. Examples of this include people who are able to maintain long-term comfortable relationships with other people and and are able to effectively express thoughts and feelings.

I was raised in a family where violence was present unnecessarily. It seriously got in the way of me learning proper assertive communication skills.

It was difficult to grow up having a father figure because of how my father was to my family. I was never taught proper social skills or had any examples provided to me. Because of how my father was, I knew everything about him was negative and I did not want to be like him at all… one bit.

In a way, it is hard to describe but I became a better man because of how my father acted. I learned how to treat others with respect and how to properly communicate. It is good to know that I have seen what the negative outcome will be without proper communication skills and to learn from that bad example.

Recently, my mother and I have been beginning to communicate better. I am now expressing more of my true thoughts to her by opening up, by using a more friendly approach to topics that usually would cause stress between the both of us. We are both using more positive expression and more positive body language.

Less nagging has been occurring leading to more different approaches to conversations that we ever really had before.”

I hope you are as inspired as I am in this young man’s story of pain and recovery, of his striving to overcome horrible experiences and learn more caring, loving and effective communication. Just because we may have grown up in families where violence and abuse existed doesn’t mean we must repeat this behavior. We can, with reading and good guidance, confront our way of interacting with others, learn new ways of communicating and develop meaningful, satisfying, long-term, loving relationships with others.

 


 Photo credit: snowbear from morguefile.com

Some of us will say “Absolutely!” Some of us will say “Not for me!” And others may be too confused to decide. The reality is that sex plays a significant role in love relationships. While it promises so much joy and satisfaction, it can also be the deciding factor that destroys very loving relationships.

When we first choose to be in a romance or “fall into” a loving relationship, most of us are so infatuated with our partners. The sex drive is amazing… even through the roof (thanks dopamine). We can barely take our hands off each other. It’s exciting, engaging, enchanting and we just seem to connect on a level that we assume will last forever. So often we dive into a romance head first (Or is it “heart first”?) and the commitment to be together opens up new expectations and responsibilities, many unforeseen and under-discussed… “love is blind”.

Well not really yet it can certainly feel that way.  Diving in head first quickly becoming more committed than our understanding of one another can handle. As the expectations and assumptions increase, the pressure can overwhelm healthy relationship development. When certain steps are missed in almost any project, task or adventure something will usually falter.

Cracks in the relationship appear and couples can be found scrambling to save or salvage what wasn’t really well established in the first place. Many separated couples state that the connection “just isn’t there anymore”. The passion and excitement that was there when they first met is said to have “faded” until they felt like they were just friends, or worse, “roommates”.

Couples often agree that life and children and work get into the way of romance, however, isn’t this denying ownership and personal choice?  After all, who’s making the decisions? It’s about finding the strategy and skill set to balance our lives in such a way that are able to meet all our needs, not perfectly but sufficiently and satisfactorily for both partners.

Separated couples also share, retrospectively, that they become frustrated, disgruntled and then turn away from their spouse.  Gradually withdrawing to other distractions, many find other potential partners and their sexuality becomes sparked elsewhere. Relationship abandonment is frequently preceded by minimal effort, money and energy being invested into reading and seeking help to “tune-up” their run down relationship; finding ways to become new and adventurous in the apparently no longer “forever” relationship.

When couples seek counselling, many find it is often too late which is statistically supported. One or both have already “checked out” of the relationship and are thinking of lives without one another. What contributes to the decisions to give up on what was once a committed relationship, find another partner and go through the same thing all over again? Many factors can be draining on romance so it is important to have a thorough assessment.

Once we find ourselves moving toward a committed relationship, it is imperative to decide to invest time, energy and significant effort toward the ongoing improvement of intimacy skills; communication, sexuality, problem-solving, conflict resolution, assertiveness, moral and spiritual foundations and healthy family values and beliefs.

Don’t be a statistic. When you and your partner want to enhance ALL aspects of your relationship, contact us for a confidential and professional assessment / consultation.

 


Photo credit: ardelfin from morguefile.com

Many families will come to counselling as a sign of support to help a loved one through a difficult time (e.g. addiction, cooperative parenting, disordered eating, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.). Sometimes families will provide financial support for a treatment program while others may attend sessions to improve overall teamwork. Still, other family members will change habits in the household to reduce the chance of addictive behaviours reoccurring.

How much family support is too much or not enough? This question is difficult to answer. As parents, we want to help our children (even if they are adults) to the best of our ability. However, sometimes this means we may be doing too much for them. Doing too much can often prevent individual growth and development. Parents may also want to take responsibility for the child/adult’s behaviour.

This is where family therapy helps, drawing upon family systems research and practice. It helps families clarify when to take responsibility or ownership and when not to, how to set clear boundaries and opportunities for change. Families can also establish new roles and expectations along with accountability measures for noncompliance and strategies for encouraging and increasing the behaviours desired.

Insufficient family support can be very debilitating for a person with mental health concerns and, thus, for the family as a whole. Strained and inconsistent communication is very common when there have been hurt feelings and years of promises broken.  As the support of loved ones grows thin, the person with mental health concerns can become even more distant and make even more harmful decisions. Balancing relationships within the family and keeping supportive connections while in treatment is a very important topic to discuss with a professional counsellor.

There are many ways in which a family can support one another through the difficult times. Start with this LISTEN acronym:

L: Learn to hear each other out more, increasing understanding and Love for one another.

I:  Inspire one another by having Integrity with your word and authenticity in your actions.

S: Solution-oriented state of mind helps focus on positive steps forward, finding solutions.

T: Treat others with respect, Teach caringly, Talk calmly and with Teamwork language.

E: Establish family goals together, Empower action and Encourage achievement.

N: Never give up on each other.


 Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

When a mother holds her daughter for the first time, a number of overwhelming thoughts and feelings accumulate. We love our daughter so deeply and unconditionally.

As our princesses grow, we watch our daughters blossom. We observe them in their playgroups, we watch them play pretend housewives or have tea parties with their stuffed animals. Then they grow out of pretend play and school hours and then peers occupy the majority of their time. We may feel a sense of loss. We now learn more from our daughters and begin to realize that many other sources now influence their lives and choices.

As mothers, we might struggle with how to protect our daughters, concerned with exactly how to help them make it in this world. Becoming too lenient or too strict is easy and can quite quickly negatively impact parenting. Increased confrontations between mothers and daughters can stem from having fewer and fewer open, calm and honest conversations.

Common assumptions made by both can include:

  • Mom: “She doesn’t know what she’s doing!”
  • Daughter: “She doesn’t understand me!”
  • Mom: “I just don’t want her to make the same mistakes that I made.”
  • Daughter: “When is she going to realize that I can take care of myself?”
  • Daughter: “She should stay out of my business.”
  • Mom: “Maybe I should just leave her alone?”

With these assumptions, many miscommunications can form. This can lead to increased confusion, uncertainty and even hostility toward one another. Hurtful things can be said and done making it more difficult to mend an already tenuous relationship.

Relationship coaching for mothers and daughters who are having difficulty communicating can be very helpful. Boundaries may be adjusted, roles clarified and relationships reconciled in the counselling process. Counselling helps family members voice concerns, relate to one another differently, resolve problems effectively and listen to each other’s needs in the relationship.

Book an appointment with us today to improve your relationships.

The Art of Effective Conversation

Communication, when performed effectively, (e.g. calmly, lovingly. sensitively. wisely, respectfully) enhances and fosters positive relationships. However, when done poorly, it leads to communication breakdowns which are draining on those involved. When we have difficulty communicating (causing increased arguments and stress), it is normal for us to feel like giving up.

Poor communication involves certain tendencies or habits that almost everyone resorts to at one point or another. Any of these following communication blockers can inhibit effective discussion, especially during stressful and crucial conversations:

  • Interrupting
  • Ignoring
  • Blame Game
  • Using Sarcasm
  • Insulting/Name Calling
  • Globalizing (i.e., using “always” or “never” statements)
  • Judging
  • Stating opinion as fact
  • Mind Reading/Assuming
  • Advising (i.e., providing solutions without permission)

In the heat of the moment, our body moves into “fight or flight”, a part of which leads to reduced oxygen to the brain. This blocks effective thinking from taking place. Effective communication coaching or counselling helps people identify the triggers in their bodies that prevent rational thinking. It also teaches creative and light-hearted ways to communicate under duress and high stress. Working together, counsellors and people develop strategies to decrease anger and confusion that arises in stressful situations making it more possible to approach tough situations and conversations with appropriate communication techniques.

Therapy also helps individuals, couples and families sort through crucial conversations and create strategies together to resolve conflict and improve relationship satisfaction. Call us today to enhance your communication style!

Keep Personal and Professional Separate? Not Always

Ever consider bringing some of the skills you learn at the office home, into your marriage and family life? It is quite common to struggle with communication in our personal lives; to become quickly frustrated, abrupt and even downright hurtful at times. Yes “potty mouth” or what I sometimes call “verbal diarrhea” can easily become part of the argument when fighting escalates.

While there are important boundaries to be maintained between the office and home, there are multiple skills and strengths that can be used quite well in either environment. Why not practice a strategy or two from the office in your family life? For instance, in business we tend to schedule times (staff meetings etc.) to discuss more serious or important issues or challenges. We might even give out the agenda items in advance (when we’re well organized) allowing people time to consider their opinions, ideas and solutions prior to the meeting. This approach gives each person a chance to prepare, thus helping to keep conversations calm and solution-focused.

Some organizations have problem-solving protocols, conflict-resolution guidelines and emergency plans. The first may include the following very important principle; “When you have a problem with someone, first address the issue with that person directly”. Only after doing so, and being unable to resolve the matter, would you go outside for help (not for complaining or gossiping).

Imagine how many fights and arguments might be avoided by bringing just a few professional communication strategies home? Additional skills may include negotiation and conflict-resolution skills such as; keep emotions calm or minimized; one issue at a time; stay current or present-focused; structure the meeting well (e.g. be as brief as possible and begin and end with encouragement-positives).

Well, maybe not boardroom to bedroom, however, it is important to transfer positive skills and solutions both from office to home and visa-versa. Yes we may do well to bring something like teamwork back and forth. Thinking of the family and couple as teams, no different than sports teams and work teams, reminds us we are to work together toward the same goals; toward health, wealth and happiness.

For teamwork to be successful, there is no place for judgement, blame or grandstanding, whether at the office, shop, arena or at home. When things get difficult, and one teammate is not doing well, it is precisely then that others are to move in and help out.

Want to improve your teamwork at the office or at home?  Contact us today

 

 

“Mental health concerns are dirty little secrets that should not be spoken about. They are problems that no one should know about except the immediate people that are affected. Mental health concerns show weakness and shame towards the family name. “

With thoughts like these rummaging through the family, no wonder difficulties with mental health go untreated. The socially constructed stigmas of mental illness can be suffocating. However, bottled up, negative thoughts about impaired mental health can do more harm than good:

We may come to believe those negative thoughts associated with mental health concerns. These thoughts lead to feelings of worthlessness, shame, low self-esteem, withdrawal from relationships, and depression.

Secrets regarding your mental health inhibit family members from understanding your symptoms and your needs to overcome it.

Keeping any impaired mental health information can prevent future generations from understanding your family’s mental health background.

The Canadian Mental Health Association states that 20% of Canadians will personally experience mental health concerns (or illnesses) in their lifetime. 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by disordered mental health. And, in Canada, only 1 of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.

So, why the BIG SECRET?

Whether you term it mental health concerns, mental illnesses, or psychological disorders, they can ALL be treated effectively.

At Jeff Packer & Associates, we assess your thoughts and feelings associated with your mental health concerns. Together, we help you create coping thoughts and strategies to overcome the barriers that you face with your mental health. We also help you establish healthy and effective ways of communicating your concerns with loved ones, so that they can support you in your process of recovery.

Call us today and overcome the stumbling blocks that prevent you from achieving positive mental health.