It’s truly amazing the changes that can happen between your mouth and someone else’s ears. You might feel that often what you say and what people hear are two different things, or those around you seem to always take things differently than you intended. You’re feeling lost or unheard…so, you’ve decided to do something about it and have started looking into therapy for communication issues – but what is communication therapy? And does it help?
Everyone talks about how communication is so important. Look at anyone’s online dating profile, it always says that the hallmark of a good relationship is communication. So we all know that communication is important……but how do we actually live by that? How do we implement that and be continuously working and growing our communication skills?
Therapy for communication issues can come in many forms (family therapy, couples counseling, or individual therapy), but at its core, communication therapy helps clients identify their communication style and learn how to effectively convey their thoughts and feelings with those around them.
Learning why your particular style of communication isn’t working, or why you never seem to be able to understand your spouse or loved one’s intentions, can help you finally feel empowered and in control of your conversations. Below, I’ll be discussing exactly what communication therapy for adults is, what it involves for families, couples, and as an individual, along with the four different communication styles and how communication therapy works.
What is adult communication therapy?
Communication Therapy in Family Therapy
Does it seem like your child, teenager, or even your partner isn’t listening? Or do you feel like every conversation you try to initiate ends in tears, arguments, or others simply leaving the room? Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, but STILL can’t seem to ever say the right thing?
If so, your family is likely dealing with communication issues. And if a breakdown in communication is happening within your family, it might be time to reach out to a therapist that specializes in family communication issues to help you and your loved ones. Family therapy focused on communication can help you address those uncomfortable or long-standing issues that keep getting swept under the rug for fear of conflict.
Communication breakdown within families is a very common issue – nearly every family goes through times where one member can’t understand the reasons for another’s words or actions. But if it’s become a long-term issue or is completely changing your family’s way of life, it’s time to talk with a therapist. We can help you work through any communication issues in a safe and neutral environment.
Communication Therapy in Couples Counseling
Whether it’s the silent treatment, passive-aggressive behavior, constant toxic conversations, or all of the above, dealing with a breakdown in communication within a relationship can be heartbreaking. How can the person you once loved so much now make you feel so much resentment towards them?
You’re just trying to show them your side of the story, but they don’t seem to be able to hear you.
And you can’t help but think that if you can’t relate to your partner in a way that’s healthy and constructive, the future will only hold more of these horrible feelings and experiences. But that’s where a therapist can really help – therapy can serve as a place and time where you and your partner can address your concerns with a neutral third party by your side. I often see couples who are on “the same side” of an issue, but don’t even realize that they are in alignment because of all of their communication breakdowns.
Working with a therapist that specializes in helping couples overcome communication barriers can help you rediscover your partner with a renewed understanding. Learning your own communication style can also help you be a better partner – often you’re both saying the same thing, just in different ways.
Communication Therapy in Individual Therapy
You’re not feeling a breakdown in communication with just your family, friends, or your partner…but with everyone. Nobody seems to understand what you’re trying to say, and you’re often left feeling like you’ll never actually be heard.
Working with a therapist individually can give you a deeper understanding of yourself, how you communicate, and how you relate to others. You deserve to feel that you have a voice and will be heard.
Different Communication Styles
Humans are incredibly complex, especially when it comes to communication. But no matter your upbringing or values, most people tend to fall into one of the four following communication styles: aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive, or assertive.
Aggressive Communication Style
If you have an aggressive communication style, you probably tend to directly express your feelings. Though you’re just trying to show others how you feel, it might come across as emotionally reactive or negative.
Having trouble keeping a cool head and a clear mind during hard conversations can also signal an aggressive communication style. Maybe you raise your voice when you feel like you’re not being heard. Or maybe people seem to get caught up in how you deliver your message rather than what your words are saying. Either way, you might have an aggressive communication style.
But there’s always a reason why we do things – and if you think you might be communicating aggressively, a therapist can help you figure out why. Once you know, you can address things, and eventually be able to communicate more effectively with those around you.
Passive Communication Style
People with passive communication styles tend to struggle to get their thoughts across without being dismissed. If you’ve ever had a great idea in a meeting, only to have someone else articulate the same thing you said a little differently, and they get credit, you might have a passive communication style.
The same can be said for if you often feel like you’re taken advantage of in conversations or are easily manipulated. If you’re struggling with how to tell those around you how you feel and actually be heard, it might be time to reach out to a therapist.
We can help you learn the communication skills you’ll need to get your point across, know when a more ‘in-your-face’ communication style is taking advantage of you, and how to stick up for yourself. You deserve to be heard.
Passive-Aggressive Communication Style
Passive-aggressive is a phrase we hear a lot in today’s world. But when it’s used to describe a communication style, it’s referring to those of us that find it difficult to say what we really mean, whether that’s for fear of offending, retaliation, or because you aren’t sure yourself.
For example, if you’re someone with a passive-aggressive communication style, you might say that you’re okay with doing something, but then end up making angry or short remarks the entire time you’re doing it. After all, how could the other person not know how you’re feeling? Right?
But if you’re using a passive-aggressive communication style, it might be hard to know the message you’re trying to convey – after all, have you actually told the other person what you’re thinking? Or were you assuming they knew and should be able to read between the lines?
Passive-aggressive communication can be very confusing for everyone involved, but a licensed therapist, like those in our practice, can help you communicate more clearly with those around you. And if you’re struggling with knowing what you’re trying to say, we can help you with that, too.
Assertive Communication Style
There is no right or wrong communication style – each has their pros and cons. An aggressive communication style can show off your emotions quite well, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to those around you actually hearing what you have to say. Likewise, a passive communication style can make you seem like a team player, but it might also be limiting you – at work, in school, or in your relationships.
That’s where assertive communication comes in – it takes all the good parts of each communication style and gets rid of all the difficult side effects to create a clear and effective way of communicating that can help you be heard.
If you have an assertive communication style, you’re able to express your thoughts directly and with respect for others in the conversation. You can advocate for yourself without taking advantage of anyone else.
If that just sounds like a wonderful dream, know that it can be a reality. You can communicate assertively. Working with the therapists on our team can help you learn the skills, techniques, and tips to relate to those around you.
How Communication Therapy Works
During sessions focused on communication, my team and I will help you learn healthy and assertive communication by analyzing past conversations, role-playing tough conversations that need to take place, or brainstorming approaches to difficult situations at work or home.
Whether you have a history of avoiding hard conversations or you’re known as the hot-head of the family, you can learn to interact with others in a positive, effective way. That might look like:
- Making “I” statements instead of “You” statements (and no, “I” statements are NOT saying “I feel that you’re being difficult”)
- Paying attention to your non-verbal communication
- Responding with empathy instead of reacting…hard to do, but one of the best things to learn and practice.
Communication is just a skill – and it can be learned.
Together, we can help you identify your communication style (Assertive, Aggressive, Passive, or Passive-Aggressive) and pinpoint areas in which you may be failing to convey your feelings and needs.
We can help you learn to express your emotions and thoughts more effectively and can roleplay with you, giving you an opportunity to try out different communication strategies in a low-risk environment.
Healthy, positive communication, even about difficult topics, is possible. Let us show you how.