Thursday, 8 September 2011

Reflections on Communication

I don't know whether it's the same for you but when I reach the end of the day & reflect there is usually a overriding theme. Today's theme has been communication - what does it mean - how do we use it? Often when I introduce the subject of communication to clients they are puzzled. After all there's nothing unusual about speaking is there? When we proceed, however, they soon catch on to the idea that sharing what they think & feel isn't quite the same as chit chat. I'm not implying there's anything intrinsically wrong with chit chat but if that's all you do you're probably not connecting as effectively as you could do.

In my opinion good communication is one of the cornerstones of good relationships. I'm not speaking about coupledom I mean any relationship - parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, bosses etc. Working out what you think & feel & whether it's appropriate to say is an invaluable skill.

I grew up calling a spade a shovel. I thought it was simple you said what you thought & as they say in Yorkshire 'job's a good un'. I didn't realise that other people found it intimidating. I was useful as a spokesperson, I was fun but I was probably considered to be mouthy & not particularly friendly. It didn't stop me progressing in my then career but it didn't make me popular with my staff. They worked & they worked hard but they didn't like me. It upset me but I thought it was a case of you 'can't run with the hare & the hounds'.

When I went to University as a mature student I learned to share ideas & debate but I was still fairly oblivious to the impact I had. It wasn't until I began training as a counsellor that I began to consider who I was, what I thought & how other people really perceived me. I was intelligent & I could talk for England but I wasn't a really effective communicator.

I won't bore you with my training but I will tell you that my first tutor when she found out I was training for couple counselling said 'oh I think you'd be good at that because you won't mind whether other people like you or not'. I was flabbergasted what did she mean? She meant she found me challenging but she was also indicating that to challenge meant you wouldn't be liked. Her comment actually said more about her than it did about me but in fact she was wrong. It's ok to challenge - the difficult bit is to learn to challenge in a way that can be heard & worked with? 

I think it's possible to share negative feelings without accusation & be heard. We are pretty much like children insofar as we want to be liked & loved & if we're receiving regular praise we'll pretty much accept the odd negative remark. The older I get the more my Mum's sayings run through my mind. Her advice on communication was  you have two ears & one mouth use them in proportion & you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar but it took me a long time to assimilate that advice.


  1. Haha, you could have written this about me too!

  2. thanks so much for contributing Zoe. It would seem we have much in common? x

  3. Dear Zoe,
    I, could have written this about me.

    I particularly find instructive the acknowledgement of the 'need to be liked'. Too right, slight difference between communication and a chit chat. Bravo.

  4. thanks Ade I really appreciate you taking the time to read & comment - the desire & the difficulties are clearly experienced by both genders?

  5. If you need to be liked you are giving all the power in the conversation to the other person . I much prefer the direct approach and to be left knowing where one stands. Once we stop needing to be liked ( which can be real difficult) we can make real and major inner progress.

  6. I think the need to be liked can get in the way of genuine communication - see my blog on saying no -Easy to Spell Difficult to Say. I too prefer the direct approach, however, the other person would need to be just as direct to know where you stand? I'm pleased you feel confident enough to be able to do it. Thanks for commenting :)

  7. I'd love to hear more about how you combine a natural inclination to speak out with your need to be liked. It seems to me to be incredibly hard to resolve and also very painful.

    It is often assumed that if you 'speak truth' you are a hard and insensitive person - that, indeed, you ought to be.


  8. perhaps by asking yourself first 'what do I want to speak out for' and 'what do I hope to gain'? Truth? We each have our own truth and it depends where you're stood in the field as to what you see? I find that owning what I think and feel works for me? By that I mean using I statements and not accusations. The communication rule is - sway something nice - say what you want to say - say something nice. It's a bitter pill between two choc drops! :-) x

  9. As always a very interesting and honest blog. I have worked with a number of managers whose desire to be liked actually made them ineffective communicators because they weren't willing to communicate 'bad news' or to challenge unacceptable performance or behaviour.

  10. Why do people fear not being liked? Who is the judge of whether someone is likeable or not- surely this is all subjective and good communication shoud be as objective as possible.
    I spent a lot of my life hoping that if I did the right thing people would like me, then I grew up and realised that most people seemed to like people I didn't. In fact some really horrible people seemed more popular than I thought they deserved to be.
    Now, I say what I feel is honest and true even if people don't like it and guess what? they still like me!
    I remember you at Uni Barbara, I used to think you had a bit of a
    chip on your shoulder- but I liked you just the same. I think I used to irritate you too, but I didn't really care...!
    Be who you are and let everyone else go hang.
    What really worries me is that you have time to reflect on your day- I just wish I hadn't eaten so much and go to bed.
    Night night my friend x

  11. why do people want to be liked? I guess is starts in infant hood because if our parents don't like us there's a chance we wouldn't surviving and of course we are sociable animals who have become a sophisticated society. I can see where you thought I had a chip on my shoulder but in fact I was just scared much of the time. I am sorry you couldn't sleep but so pleased you decided to comment x