article. Then make
30" of undistracted time, and fill it out thoughtfully for yourself and
(optionally) another important adult or child. The worksheet focuses on communication
between any two people. The blocks also apply to two or more personality subselves!
30 Typical Communication Blocks
(check if applicable)
__ __ 1)
receives a verbal or nonverbal
they decode as "I don't respect
you as an equal here." R-messages are usually decoded
unconsciously from perceived voice and body dynamics.
"works" (needs get well-filled) when each
person (a) feels enough
self-respect, and (b) gets believable mutual-respect
The sender's and
receiver's communication needs
I need to vent, and you need to persuade me to do
something (cause action). Each person
always has two or more of the six communication
combinations of these needs conflict.
First steps to resolve this in
important conversations are (a) identify your and your
partner's current communication
- as team-mates,
and (b) genuinely want to value them equally!
The sender gives a
(mixed) message: their words say one thing, and
their face, body, and/or voice imply something else: e.g. "I'm
not angry!", said loudly with a scowl and growl. The
automatic responses to
perceived double messages are confusion, frustration, and - if habitual - growing
distrust of the speaker.
Double messages are caused by the (unaware)
speaker being controlled by two or more opposed subselves. Awareness and
metatalk skills and true (vs. pseudo) recovery from psychological wounds can help resolve this, over time. Respectful
(assertions) can help an unaware
sender realize they're sending mixed messages. See #10 below.
__ 4) One or both people are
distracted (i.e. can't focus or hear well)
discomfort (pain, thirst, sleepiness, full bladders, headaches, etc.),
lights, motions, smells, temperature, etc.;
yet they try important communication
__ Block 5)
Often interrupting your partner sends an implied "I'm
superior" R-message to them. This behavior suggests that the
interrupter is probably composing their response without really
hearing the speaker. Interruptions can imply...
"My current communication
are more important than yours," and...
the interrupter has a one-person
(# 13 below).
These feel disrespectful, and
usually promote defensiveness,
and irritation in the
receiver - specially if s/he's ruled by a false self. Frequent interrupting is often unconscious, and will continue
unless the receiver feels enough genuine
assert and stop it
("Alex, I need you to stop interrupting me.")
person makes wrong assumptions about
the other's intent, needs, meaning, emotions, R-message, and/or key
words and phrases. This can be called "mind reading," and may be an unconscious or an intentional way of discounting the
other: "I know what you really feel or mean, no matter what
you say (or donít say)." This often evokes defensiveness,
resentment, counterattack, and/or withdrawal and denial.
important exchanges, identify and verify key assumptions about your
A special case of
mind-reading happens when the receiver starts talking before the
speaker finishes because they "know what (the speaker) is
going to say." Even if true, this can
like a discount. Conversely, the speaker may habitually repeat and/or be
long-winded, and the receiver gets bored.
receiver may use a
like "When you string so many ideas and comments together with-out
pausing, I get overwhelmed and lose interest in what you're saying."
The sender isn't
on (a) what
needs are causing his
or her (b) current communication
will then probably feel uneasy and confused. A related problem is ...
One or both partners
having no focus, and/or using vague terms and/or
that they can use respectful
to confirm that
they're decoding the other person's meaning accurately.
__ __ 10)
Either person may
deny or minimize their current
emotions to themselves and/or their partner. The receiver may
feel they should be interested ("Please go on - this is
fascinating!"), when they're really bored or distracted. Even when sent
"skillfully," such denials usually result in a
double message ("words may lie,
bodies and faces don't"). If habitual, such denials and deceptions breed
confusion, and erode trust in the speaker. Kids are specially quick to sense these
"self-lies." See block #3 above.
emotions from personal (non-business) communications
- on purpose or unconsciously - can leave the receiver unsure of the
sender's meaning. The listener may interpret
unemotional communication ("You're always in your head") as "You
don't trust me" or "You're hiding something." Local or
chronic anxiety and
distrust usually result.
receiver may be doing something that makes the sender feel unsafe
in honestly sharing their current feelings, and the sender isn't saying
the sender may be
and unaware of this or denying it.
are often uneasy identifying expressing emotions like
(anxiety), confusion, guilt, shame and sadness. If frequent and
ignored, withholding emotions hinders effective
Pause, breathe, and stretch. What are you aware of now? Do you need a
break before studying more of these 30 common communication blocks?
Focusing too often on
the past or the future can prevent
resolving problems in the present. A special case
is when someone imagines a future event so vividly that they react to
their partner in the present as though the imagined event had already
occurred ("I know you'll be late again!")
This is a sure sign of
false-self dominance. Resolving this block begins with
becoming nonjudgmentally aware of it and how it
affects your communication effectiveness and key relationships.
__ Block 13)
Habitually focusing on one's self (being "self centered")
attention will result at best in unbalanced and shallow
communication. At worst, the receiver may (a) feel used,
ignored, and resentful, or (b) feel encouraged to ignore you.
Awareness and respectful
change this. Seek to maintain genuine (vs. pretend or dutiful)
awareness "bubbles" with each
other in important situations. Difficulty doing this indicates
unawareness and a dominant false self.
The sender and/or
receiver are unaware of the primary needs causing their
surface needs. For example "I want to talk to you"
(surface need) may really mean "I need to reassure myself you
still care about me because you've seemed distant lately." Awareness,
clear thinking, patient
empathic listening help unearth semi-conscious current primary
Old "issues" keep
returning until the primary discomforts beneath them are acknowledged
person can send a
"Be spontaneous!" paradox.
This occurs when one person
requests or demands something from another that can only
be given spontaneously - like trust, love, interest, acceptance, appreciation, desire, and respect. If the second
person tries to comply, the first person may then say - "You're just
doing that because I asked you to, not because you really mean it."
Examples: "You never say 'I love you'"; "I demand that you
respect my wishes!"; "You need to respect the sacrifices I'm
making for you"; and "I need you to (want to) initiate sex more
often." Such paradoxical messages are inherently self-defeating, and
make things worse.
The antidote to this block is...
mutual knowledge of
the second person
asserting something like "You're
asking me to give you something that can only be spontaneous," and...
digging down to identify the
that are causing this situation. This can't happen unless both
people want to (a) improve their communication effectiveness as true
partners, and to (b) make
this a mutual high priority in their busy lives.
We're half-way through
this collection of common communication blocks. How many of these could you have named before you read this?
Are your kids learning to be aware of these blocks yet? Breathe,
stretch, and continue...
__ Block 16)
can hinder understanding and effective problem-solving.
"You're always insensitive and inconsiderate!" will probably be received differently than
"I'm mad and frustrated because you're 40 minutes late and I missed my ride!"
or "You never..." can imply the receiver is
1-down (inferior), and invite her or him to feel guilty and defensive about many past
events as well as the present one. Normal responses to this block are
defending, explaining, shutting down,
and/or counterattacking - unless the receiver needs to stay superficial.
If your Self (capital "S") is
mutual respect and focused awareness,
the communication skills of metatalk,
and assertion may reduce this block
"When you often generalize
by saying 'never' or 'always,' I feel frustrated, resentful, and my mind
wanders." Can you stop generalizing and be more specific?").
A cooperative response is most likely if the other person is guided by
their true Self.
moralizing, lecturing, or advising someone with a problem ("I'm just trying to
can erode relationships if the receiver just needs to vent (be
respectfully heard and empathically accepted) vs. to be "fixed."
Uninvited "helping" can indicate a false-self compulsion to
and may imply "I'm superior - I
know how to fix your problem and you don't." Sometimes that's true!
How common it is for over-busy, unaware parents to
"fix" their child's problem before listening carefully, and considering
if the best long-range help would be to encourage the child to
identify and fill their own needs! Choosing this option will
build a child's competence and self confidence over time, even if it
frustrates them now.
Partners not knowing the
difference between win-win
common lose-lose alternatives like fighting, arguing, threatening,
avoiding, blaming, explaining (defending), preaching, moralizing, monologing, hinting,
whining, numbing out, defocusing, enduring, imposing, submitting,
pretending, and assuming.
Know anyone who does any of these behaviors? Are you aware of the
behaviors' effects on their serenity and relationships?
When conflicts don't abate, try asking "Are
problem-solving now, or doing something else?" Option: in vexing or recurring
to learn what you
two are doing together.
critical (vs. affectionate) name-calling erodes the receiver's self-esteem and
the odds for cooperative problem-solving. "You're stupid / lazy / spacey / nuts /
weird / hopeless / a jerk / spastic / brain-dead..." etc.
non-verbal version of this block is "the look" that
conveys massive scorn, disgust, indifference, dislike, and/or rejection.
If you ever name-call
such a look, what happens to (a) your self esteem, (b) the receiver's
self esteem, and to (c) your
relationship? Who's current needs get met? Frequent
name-calling and/or sarcasm are sure signs of a
(capital "S") and
20) Physical or
emotional withdrawal is a powerful communication that may imply "You
scare, bore, or overwhelm me" (implied message: "I'm inferior") or
"I don't care about you and your needs now," ("I'm
way, the abandoned partner will probably feel hurt and
specially if the
withdrawer denies or won't talk about leaving.
In resolving this communication block, respectfully explore if the abandoned
unaware of doing something that triggers the withdrawal... ("Ned,
every time I try to say what I need, you interrupt and attack me - so I just shut up
( vs. requests) suggest "My current needs are more
important than yours!" They usually provoke hurt, resentment, defiance, and
everyone feeling badly about themselves and/or the exchange.
change this, the receiver needs
to (want to) use assertive
- e.g. (with steady eye contact)
feel you're making a demand (or threat) now. When you do that, I feel resentful,
combative. I need you to make your point another way."
person changes the subject repeatedly or suddenly
without asking if their partner is done. This implies that they feel their current needs
and worth are superior to their partner's. When this happens, the receiver's responsibilities
the defocusing and how it feels,
and (b) be respectfully assertive about finishing their first topic if s/he needs to. However, the "You're
Hinting or asking
leading (indirect) questions can be OK, or can imply "I don't
of us to deal directly with my subject." Having a
covert communication goal ("agenda") often
results in sending
double messages which leave the receiver feeling confused,
suspicious, discounted, and resentful. See
of appropriate eye contact, speaking hesitantly, or constantly apologizing, all
imply "I feel inferior now." This may be OK if the receiver is comfortable
feeling superior. Over time, this pattern promotes loss of respect in both partners
which breeds discounting, poor listening, and ineffective communication.