May 13

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Beliefs that Aid Communication


The dance of communication has three steps: showing understanding; asserting your feelings, wants, and limits; and defusing abusive remarks.

  • Rephrase others’ thoughts, empathize with their feelings, and validate the factors that contribute to those feelings.
  • State your emotions in a sentence that starts with “I,” make requests that start with the word “Would,” and take actions that back up your desires and limits.
  • Treat cruel comments with kindness, ask questions that identify the distress that contributes to insults, and use “hypnotic” words that subtly suggest desirable behavior.

    If the steps of the “communication dance” are difficult for you, it may be because you are hearing the wrong music. Thoughts such as “I have to make others understand,” “My feelings aren’t important,” and “I must never appear weak or lose” are sure to make you trip. To discover any thoughts that are making you stumble, ask yourself:

  • What does it mean about me when other people order, yell, complain, or blame?
  • What do I think about myself when I express my feelings?
  • How do cutting comments make me feel about myself

Directions: Check off any of the thoughts in the left-hand column that you have in your worse moments. Then, check off the beliefs in the right-hand column that you would like to have when communication is difficult.

1.   I have trouble listening because I think:

1.   I can listen when I believe:

I have to keep others happy, fix their problems, convince them, etc.

I can understand others without having to fix them.

 If I don’t retaliate or defend myself, I’m weak, a loser, etc.

 My power comes from understanding others, not from being            understood.

2.   It’s difficult to express myself when I think:

2.  I can express myself when I believe:

My feelings, wants, and limits aren’t important.

My feelings and desires need to be known to reach long-lasting, satisfying solutions.

 If others get upset, it’s my fault. I’m a troublemaker or difficult.

  I’m responsible for my own reactions and others are responsible      for theirs.

3.  I can defuse abuse when I believe:

3.  I have trouble defusing abuse when I think:

I have the right to make mistakes, be illogical, or have mixed emotions.

If I make mistakes, break some rules, or change my mind, I’m a failure, defective, or a terrible person.

  I can learn from mistakes.
  I have choices.

  I’m trapped, powerless, and helpless.
  I can handle this.

Identifying communication-enhancing phrases and affirming them regularly will give you the confidence you need to show understanding, express yourself effectively, and defuse verbal abuse. Surprisingly, you do not have to feel good about yourself to communicate powerfully. But the first time you take the tiniest step toward “power communication,” you will feel good about yourself.

See EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy by Francine Shapiro (Basic Books, 1997) or A Guide to Rational Living by Ellis (Wilshire Book Co., 1997) for further ideas on how thoughts affect emotions

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