Experiencing Relationship breakdown? Try these effective communication tools for help!

Posted on September 3, 2017 at 1:10 PM


Experiencing a Relationship Breakdown? Try these effective communication tools for help!


The base for any foundation of a solid relationship is cemented in the ability to communicate effectively. When I see clients in conflict with others, a breakdown in communication is usually the main culprit. Regardless of the type of relationship (coworker, teen, parent, spouse, etc), if the communication styles applied are inadequate that is the first issue that needs to be addressed.


For two people to begin to communicate effectively, a desirable outcome and motivation must be shared equally by both. Knowledge of the other person’s communication style, and why they have adopted it, is vital.


It is said that there is five (5) communication styles that a person will use:



Example “ Don’t start to worry about my feelings now.”

This communication style is rooted in overwhelmed emotions of anger, powerlessness, or hurt however, these feelings are most often ineffectively conveyed through sarcasm or indirect statements. The recipient is often left confused, annoyed or resentful. The end result of passive aggressive communication is rarely a satisfactory resolution of a pressing issue. If you are finding this style matches your pattern, it is important to check in with yourself. Is there a past hurt with this person? Do you not feel emotionally or physically safe to converse openly with the person you are in conflict with? These issues will need to be understood in order for your destructive communication style to develop into a more effective one.



Example “I guess I will stay home, and hope I can trust you.”

The person who defaults to this type of communication will most often not be seeking to change their style, but yours. This is not always out of malice, but can be a defence mechanism. The patterns to be mindful of are: using influence to change opinions, conniving and controlling language use in order to manipulate an outcome. Recognizing this style in others, can promote appropriate boundaries.



Example “That comment made me feel disrespected – here is why …”

Using assertive communication is most often paired with confidence, balance and straightforwardness. This is known as the healthiest form of communication, as the person who is assertive is usually self-aware, and does not resort to disrespectful language or manipulation. This style leads to goal setting and often results in the respectful achievement of a desired outcome. The person on the receiving end of this communication will feel sure of where they stand with the communicator, and often that there is a balance of mutual respect.



Example “I will do what I please, and you have no say about it ...”

One of the least effective forms of communication is aggressive. The basis of this style is control and victory over the listener; with absolutely no regard of the recipient’s needs. The communicator can present as demanding, intimidating, loud and even explosive. Of course the recipient will more often than not feel afraid, demeaned, or powerless, and will usually give up on voicing their opinion.



Example “It's okay, I know you didn't mean to hurt me, it’s no big deal.”

The opposite of aggressive, yet equally as ineffective, is submissive communication. The desired outcome of this communicator is to please the recipient and avoid conflict. Although this may sound peaceful, the communicator rarely achieves their needs being met, and can even have their personal rights be dismissed. This communication style is usually paired with an unequally balanced relationship.


Moving forward, where do we go from here?


Just as learning someone's love language in a relationship is important (5 Love Languages), understanding one’s communication style can also help you react appropriately to the important people in your life. I encourage my clients to learn their own style, and to understand why they possess it, in order to help significant people in their lives understand their perspective. When a conflict arises it can then be deescalated with compassion for the other’s point of view, grounded in understanding of what is behind their words. When one fully grasps what emotions trigger them to use a specific communication style, as well as its effective or non-effectiveness, we begin to see progress in the success of the relationship.


During couple’s therapy, I have found it helpful to invite each partner to present their style of communication and why they feel they use it. For example, an aggressive communicator may feel they have not had their needs heard, or that they lack importance in the relationship, so being loud and intimidating is what they may turn to. A submissive communicator may have grown up around conflict, without proper conflict resolution skills they may choose to avoid conflict all together. Once we can empathize with why one communicates the way they do, we can help them to find a more effective way to voice their opinions and needs. Self-awareness is one of the most important characteristic of a healthy relationship, with yourself and others. We need to understand how to reflect on our feelings, triggers and behaviours, why they are there, and how they help or hinder our current situations. With self-awareness you will also have the ability to confidently find your ownership during conflict.


Regardless of magnitude, conflicts of some form will occur on a semi-regular basis during significant relationships. The more emotionally intense the conflict, the greater the difficulty one will face in reacting appropriately. When we are in conflict with someone it is crucial to learn when to press pause in the situation particularly if the language used becomes heated, emotions are overtaking logic, or it feels like each participant is trying to prove they are right. These are signs that indicate effective communication has broken down and the outcome will likely be poor. I often suggest that the parties discuss a communication breakdown plan ahead of time, setting up a ‘mini-contract’ for example: "If we aren’t coming to a successful agreement, we pause and write down our feelings and remind each other what our desired outcome is." One of the most effective forms of communication I suggest when communication has failed and significant conflict arises is writing a letter explaining what they need, along with how they are feeling. I have also found success developing a “T-chart” wherein clients describe what they are feeling and what are trying to accomplish, and what they believe the recipient is feeling and trying to accomplish on their side. If we incorporate self-awareness, acceptance of the other’s needs, as well as our own and empathy for each other in our T-chart, both participants will feel heard. Each participant then switches T-charts and reads them aloud to the other, reflecting on what they are reading, feeling and understanding from the other person. This form of written and oral conflict resolution can lead to further bonding in a significant relationship.


Along with understanding ones communication style, I suggest 5 key points for each individual to focus on when communicating:


* Have a clear understanding of others point of view

* Self-awareness

* Mutual respect

* Reciprocal empathy

* Comprehension of both parties desired outcome


When conflict arises, if each individual has these 5 key points at the forefront of their communication, a compassionate resolution is almost certain.



© 2018 Ginger Henderson, R.T.C . All Rights Reserved

101-4475 Viewmont Ave

Victoria British Columbia Canada



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Ginger Henderson, 


106-4475 Viewmont Ave , Victoria

British Columbia Canada V8Z 5K8

© 2018 Ginger Henderson, R.T.C. M.T.C

All Rights Reserved.