We all benefit from open and clear communications in our lives, both in delivering and receiving it. But it’s when those communication channels become closed or lack definition, that problems can start. So when poor communication becomes more commonplace in either our personal or professional lives, it has the potential to lead to bigger issues for our mental health.
Poor communication and mental health
The majority of us manage our different relationships every day and they usually fall into the three main categories of platonic (friendships, familial), professional (colleagues, manager), and personal (spouse, significant other). When they’re all working well, life will usually be smooth and you’ll feel positive and full of energy, safe in the knowledge that you’re supported and that you can support others.
Much of what can make any of these relationships positive, favourable, and supportive comes down to open, honest, and healthy communication between all parties. Unfortunately, it’s not always plain sailing. Bumps in the road and difficulties in any one or more of these relationships can mean it turns uncomfortable or downright toxic over a period of time, causing stress, anxiety, or depression.
The one thing that’s common between both good and bad relationships in any of those three categories is communication and how it can have a positive or negative effect on your mental health. When any relationship becomes difficult or stressful, it can usually be down to poor communication between the people involved.
Poor communication examples
In an ideal world, communication should be open and clear at all times. When it is, smaller issues or problems can be dealt with quickly and effectively before they get out of control or turn into something bigger. But this isn’t always the case. When communication is lacking or non-existent, those smaller things can build into much bigger things which is harmful to the relationship and your mental health.
In a previous blog, we talked about some common workplace barriers to effective communication and how to overcome them. But while these can also be used in the context of all relationships, let’s look at some other examples of when poor communication can cause stress or otherwise affect your mental health. Remember, ‘communication’ isn’t just about talking – it’s about listening, understanding, and more besides.
Being a bad listener
Being a good listener is key to all good communications. But there are different ways to ‘listen’ and all of them can have negative effects on others. Most annoying and potentially damaging is when someone is hearing, but not really listening. This can make any person feel undervalued or not taken seriously in any kind of relationship.
Then there’s someone not listening at all and just waiting to be heard. This is just one step away from someone who refuses to listen or understand another’s point of view. Both of these are damaging to any personal, professional, or platonic relationship and neither brings resolution to important issues or helps to diffuse heated situations.
Ultimately, over time, the act of ‘not listening’ can prove to be incredibly stressful and making people feel undervalued, misunderstood, or just feeling dejected that they’re not being heard. All these issues can be overcome by really listening to the other party, staying present, and focusing on them and their concerns, whether the issues have arisen at home, at work, or in a relationship.
We’re all familiar with passive-aggressive communication in the workplace. Indeed, many of us might use it jokingly with friends and loved ones as well. But sarcasm and pass-ag in any relationship can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. Getting in the way of real communication, pass-ag communication is also patronising and condescending.
This type of response is a typical way to avoid direct or clear communications. It can be a result of a fear of competition, or deflecting blame, passing disingenuous compliments, even hiding anger or contempt for others. Any pass-ag behaviour can feel like a personal attack and escalate an already tense situation.
It really can be the last resort of any kind of disagreement when the genuine arguments dry up, but the results can be wearing, causing mental strain, frustration, and stress for the recipient – none of which are good for your mental health. When put in that situation, replying with honesty about what you believe the issue is – without resorting to passive-aggressive retorts – can often be the best way to find common ground.
Having a negative emphasis
Whether at home or with your friends, but particularly at work, a negative emphasis in your communications isn’t good for anyone’s confidence or self-esteem. A good example in the workplace might be when a manager highlights only things which have been done incorrectly, rather than focusing on everything else which has been done correctly.
This can really affect the person who has done the work, again making them feel undervalued or that their work isn’t good enough. But highlighting or emphasising the negatives in any relationship will have a similar, debilitating effect over time. To avoid this, use positive language and reframe any negatives that might be there, by focusing on the positives.
Good communication relies on positive language which can return a positive response from the other person. So using a positive rather than negative emphasis will always deliver the best outcome in any relationship.
How to communicate better
Effective communication is, more than anything else, a mindset. Though we can all communicate, we might not be communicating the way we should be, but we just might not know it. The only way to improve ourselves and address poor communication and its effect on our mental health is to change our mindset.
To help you, our 1-day Effective Communication Training course is one of the best ways to improve your communication skills and improve your, and others, mental health at the same time. In a group of up to 15 people, we cover a range of topics including, learning and understanding your own communication style, the importance of body language and non-verbal communication, and how to communicate effectively in any situation.
The course is delivered by one of Clearfocus’s fully qualified communication training professionals and can be modified to meet your own requirements, so you can get help in any specific areas you want to focus on.
Each course can be booked and arranged to suit you in a venue of your choosing anywhere in the UK. And, for ease and convenience, we can also deliver your training direct to your group via Microsoft Teams or Zoom. For more information and to book your course today, call us on 07831 119 941 or email email@example.com
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