Do you have difficulty in saying no; asking for what you need; or coping with interpersonal conflicts?
We all have difficulties in these areas at times. We have all said yes to a request and later regretted it, struggled on alone with a problem without asking for help, and given in to someone to avoid conflict, even when we feel quite strongly about the situation.
However, if a person has pervasive difficulties in interpersonal communication, it can significantly impact his or her quality of life. He or she may terminate relationships prematurely to avoid conflict, vacillate between conflict avoidance and intense confrontation, and experience high levels of resentment, frustration, and perhaps anger, in interpersonal situations.
Factors interfering with effective Interpersonal Communication
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), a treatment developed by American clinical psychologist Marsha Linehan in 1993, has a module devoted to improving interpersonal effectiveness, and describes five factors that can interfere with effective interpersonal behaviour.
The first factor is simply a skills deficit. Effective social behaviours are learnt by observing someone else do the behaviours and then practising them until good results are obtained. A person may have had limited opportunities to observe and practise effective skills growing up, often because of family disruption of some kind. The result can be that the person simply does not know how to behave effectively.
The second and third factors are worry thoughts and emotional reactions. A person may know how to act in an effective manner, but his or her thoughts and emotions interfere with effectiveness.
Common worry thoughts occurring in interpersonal situations are “They’ll think I’m stupid” and “I won’t do this right”, and common emotional reactions are anxiety, anger and guilt. These emotions can be very strong, and at times automatic, so they overwhelm a person’s capacity to act effectively.
Indecision is the fourth factor interfering with effectiveness. We struggle to effectively say no to a request if we are ambivalent about whether we want to do it, and we struggle to effectively ask for help if we are not sure if our request is reasonable or how strongly we should persist in asking.
We cannot control aspects of the social environment such as the capacity of the other person to comply with our request, the desire of the other person to negotiate in a conflict, or the authority the other person may have in determining the outcome of the situation.
It is important that we consider environmental factors when objectives are not met, so that we do not interpret the failure to meet our objectives as solely a failure in our own skills. Sometimes even the most skilled United Nations negotiators do not achieve their objectives!
These factors can interact to create acute difficulties for people. In the words of Marsha Linehan (1993), “The less you know, the more you worry, the more you can’t decide what to do, the more ineffective you are, the more you worry and so on. Or the more you experience nongiving and authoritarian environments, the more you worry, the less you practise, the less you know, the worse you feel, the more you can’t decide what to do, and so on.”
DBT can help
DBT incorporates a range of strategies to help people:
- develop more effective interpersonal skills;
- to get objectives met;
- improve interpersonal relationships;
- enhance self-esteem.
If you experience difficulties in interpersonal situations, and would like to learn more effective skills, please consider making an appointment with me.
Author: Bridget Hogg, B.Sc. (Hons), M. Sc. (Clinical Psychology)
Bridget Hogg is a Brisbane Clinical Psychologist, who places the utmost importance on the relationship she has with her clients. She has an easy, warm manner and firmly believes that if clients feel accepted and understood they will be most able to participate fully in the therapy process. She believes that at times humour and laughter can also be important parts of the therapeutic relationship and the process of therapy.
To arrange a session with Brisbane Clinical Psychologist Bridget Hogg, you can freecall 1800 877 924 or book online now!