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Date: April 30th, 2013

Title: The Art of being “Response-Able” in communication.

Here are three simple questions to ask yourself the next time you want to have a discussion with someone important in your life.

Am I in a position to be able to have this discussion? Is the other person in a position to be able to have the discussion? Am I prepared to stick around and hear what they have to say?

If you answered no to anyone of these, then it is likely not a good time to have the discussion. The communication is not going to enable the kind of response(s) you want. It would not likely be a responsible start to the discussion and the outcome is not likely to be satisfactory.

Let me go into a bit more detail.

Am I in a position to be able to have this discussion? Am I in the right frame of mind or mood? Can I speak in a way that they will be able to hear me or will my tone of voice be angry, condescending or off putting? When we want to discuss something with someone we need to ensure that we start off on the right foot, we set the stage for the conversation. We want – need – the other person to be able to hear and take in or consider what it is we are saying. If we approach the person with anger or in an attacking way they will shut down or counter attack very quickly and the communication has ceased to be helpful or healthy. If we are tired or hungry then we may not be very clear in what we have to say, the words may not come out right and we end up saying things like “that’s not what I meant” or “I’m sorry but I am tired! We end up in a side tracked discussion about what was meant or why I am tired, and this distracts from the conversation you want to have.

Is the other person in a position to be able to have the discussion? Are they in the frame of mind or mood to be able to hear what I have to say. Are they in the middle of doing something, do I have their attention, is this a good time of day for them? Are they tired or distracted? If the other person is not receptive, it makes little difference how prepared I am to have the discussion, the message will not be received well. It is critical that we do our best to make sure the other person is ready to talk. Asking a simple question like “do you have a moment, I have something I would like to speak with you about?” or “I really need to talk with you about something when can you give me some time”? These are basic and respectful questions that secure permission to have a discussion, and can I some small ways help the other person feel cared for. This may seem small however they are significant in having healthier discussions.

Am I prepared to stick around and hear what they have to say? Anytime we have a discussion with someone it is really important to be able to stick around and take in the other person’s response. It is simply not fair to say something to you and then leave, without hearing what you have to say. That simple rule taught in kindergarten applies here: treat others as you want to be treated. If I expect you to hear me out without interruption, then I need to give the same in return.

Two important things to remember in healthy communication: 1) Communication is essentially a receiver phenomenon. That means it means more how someone receives or interprets what I have to say then it does how I intended to say it. 2) just because the communication was healthy and response-able does not mean I am going to get my way! More on that another time.




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KEVIN STAFFORD, M.Sc.
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist
519.767.6581
kevin@kevinstafford.com

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