With all the talking we do everyday one might think that using words would be a refined and easy form of communication. No so. Even those of us who teach others how to communicate effectively can slip into old habits when upset or when caught off guard. So here are a couple of reminders to help you get through your next complicated communication scenario without making matters worse.
Remember to use "I statements" and express your actual thoughts and feelings instead of negating or criticizing another persons opinion. If someone mentions that someone is a jerk and you don't agree, own your opinion by using the word "I" to express how you feel. For example: "Hmmm, I kind of like the way he stands up for himself."
This way you are not criticizing the other persons' opinion, you are just disagreeing with them. If however you respond by saying "That's not true." you are in effect telling the other person that they are wrong and you are right; you are criticizing their opinion, igniting a potential argument. In short you are taking a simple difference of opinion and turning it into a negative and hurtful verbal exchange.
Words are a tricky form of communication, and unless we grew up in a home where healthy communication was the norm it can take a great deal of effort to learn how to express our needs clearly, to listen without judgment and to express our differences without creating hurt feelings. However, making the effort can mean the difference in maintaining happy, healthy relationships.