In past articles, Terry and I have talked about the importance of not keeping secrets, which can build walls between us. This would imply that telling the truth serves connection and closeness in relationships.
Unfortunately, as with most things, this “ain’t necessarily so.” Sometimes the “truth” can drive us apart, and not just when we are sharing “hurtful” things. Rather, it can be part of a behavioral repertoire that David Burns, M.D., cognitive-behavioral guru and author of the best-selling book, “Feeling Good,” has named “Bad Communication.”
Burns defines “Bad Communication” as a “refusal to share your feelings openly or to listen to what the other person has to say,” while “Good Communication” requires that you express your feelings “openly and directly” and that you “encourage the other person to express his or her feelings.”
Or, as Stephen Covey, author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” stated: Effective communication requires that we “Seek first to Understand.”
So when does “telling the truth” become “Bad Communication?” According to Burns, when you “insist that you are ‘right’ and the other person is ‘wrong.’” When you do this, you’re not interested in what they have to say, but in broadcasting or defending your own feelings and insisting that they agree with you.
But “truth” isn’t the only thing that can get in the way of “Good Communication.” Indeed, Burns offers a list of 14 more ways you can get into trouble when trying to handle a disagreement, misunderstanding, or conflict:
Whew! So many ways to communicate badly! It’s a wonder we get along at all! But don’t despair! Next month we’ll look at how to listen with greater empathy as well as how to share your own thoughts and feelings more effectively and intimately. (or you can skip ahead and visit one of David Burn’s many books, podcasts, or youTube presentations)
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