Don't Just Say Something, Stand There! -Using Talking and Listening Boundaries for Effective Communication
Don’t Just Say Something, Stand There! - Using Talking and Listening Boundaries for Effective Communication.
Sometimes we get entangled in a battle of words. This is when we are busy yelling, screaming, shaming and hurling insults at another. This is not helpful because you are likely to get whatever you hurled, right back at you. We are then stuck in angry exchanges that are non-productive. You probably don’t even remember what the message was when the battle of words is over. You missed the opportunity of hearing another person’s reality and you miss out on being heard.
If you are verbally attacked by another, just stand there. This allows you a time out to listen. Maybe you are not able to tolerate what is said to you and you are tempted to hurl back, then wait and stand there. I am not endorsing being passive or stuffing feelings. Allow people to say what they want to say. Listen to the words. Are you being verbally abused, emotionally abused or is someone sharing their reality with you? Are you experiencing feelings of anger because you cannot tolerate what is being said about you?
Evaluate the data provided to you by the other person. Just listen to the facts. While you are standing there listening to the other person, do not plan your verbal defense. Listen, then evaluate. Pia Mellody developed an effective way of communicating and sharing ones reality where boundaries are in place: Listening Boundaries and Talking Boundaries.
Listening Boundaries: Start out by evaluating the external boundary: Are you comfortable with the distance between you and the other person? Maybe you want to get closer or maybe you prefer to have a table or counter between yourself and the person that you are listening to? Remember to protect yourself by determining if the data shared by the other is “true”, “not true” or is it a boundary violation? You may want to ask questions about the information shared to determine if this is really about you, or is it about the other person?
Talking Boundaries: In order to communicate effectively and be heard, you need to avoid the blame game. While speaking, utilize “I - messages.” The Talking Boundary is structured: You state an observable behavior. Secondly, you state a thought and lastly, you state how you felt about it. For example: When I saw you drive to the casino (observable behavior), I thought you were back into your gambling addiction (thoughts) and I felt afraid (emotion).
I believe a “controlled” statement like that would be more effective than hurling an insult or using “you” statements. Unfortunately, this is not an easy and natural way for most people to communicate. Our emotions get triggered and we lose our sensible side at times. With practice, this is a more productive way of communicating. Practice and remember to breathe. To learn more about this technique and appropriate boundaries, I would recommend Pia Mellody’s The Intimacy Factor. There is practical advice on how to improve communication, set healthy boundaries and how to stop playing the blame game.
Written by: Ingela Edwards, MS, LPC-Intern, National Certified Counselor, McKinney, TX.
Supervised by: Debra Larsen, MS, LPC-S
Ingela Edwards, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS is an individual and marriage therapist