Posted by: coachingparents | November 3, 2009


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.

Effective communication is the foundation for all satisfactory
relationships.  Daily communication is the only activity that has been
found to be common to all satisfying marital relationships.  Truthful
communication is the basis for the development of “basic trust” (the
primary emotion for healthy parent/child relationships).  Most all
leaders are gifted communicators.  Without successful communication,
we don’t become fully human.  Our language skills are what separates
us from all other species.

By the time we become adults, most of us have experienced (or have
personally developed) barriers to effective communication.  These
barriers distort/prevent our communication abilities.  Here are some
of the most common barriers to effective communication.

PASSIVITY. Communication requires energy. It requires initiation and
responsiveness. If you remain passive, communication is slow at best.

DOMINANCE. If you dominate the communication process, it becomes a
“one-way street”, and prevents responses. Domination may be by words,
behavior, tone, threat, perceived authority, or manipulation.

INAPPROPRIATE SELF-DISCLOSURE. Talking about yourself rather than
responding from yourself, usually changes the subject or focus of the

INTERROGATION OR GRILLING. Protecting yourself from meaningful
contact by any one of the following patterns:

 a.  Internal taboo against crying (emotional expression).
 b.  Talking exclusively about safe topics.
 c.  Avoiding your own uncomfortable issues.
 d.  Offering false reassurance.
 e.  Emotionally detaching from the topic or person.
 f.  Intellectualization (a common favorite).

USING CRUDE LANGUAGE. May be powerful, but usually turns others off.

USING JARGON. Using words that belong exclusively to your area of
expertise… “legalese”, medicalese,” or “psychologese.”

MORALIZING OR ADMONISHING. Imposing your own value judgments on
another’s verbalizations or telling another that s/he or the ideas are
wrong, bad, etc.

PATRONIZING. Condescending words, tone, or behavior as if you were
talking to a person of less value than yourself always makes the other
feel defensive and blocks communication.

INEPT CONFRONTATION. Arguing or being dogmatic in your language or

PRESSURE TACTICS. Using threat, implied or explicit, to persuade the
other regarding the topic.

INSENSITIVITY TO FEELINGS. Being callous or unaware of your own
feelings as well as the other to whom you are communicating.

As you may have noted from all the above, there are many and varied
behaviors that hinder skillful communication.  As you become more
aware of such barriers, you have the opportunity to avoid engaging in

In a future column, I will list a number of behaviors that
enhance/strengthen effective communication.


Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Life Coaching” (formerly “Practical
Psychology”).  Initial coaching sessions are free.  E-mail: or


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