Understanding roadblocks and High-Risk Responses.
People Skills/ Dr. Robert Bolton
At first glance, some of these barriers seem quite innocent. Praise, reassurance, logical responses, questions, and well-intentioned advice are often thought of as positive factors in interpersonal relations. Why, then, do behavioral scientists think of these twelve types of responses as potentially damaging to communication? High-risk responses have a tendency to send a message of judgment, problem solving and avoidance. Which in turn becomes the roadblock of communication? Let’s explore why.
2. Name Calling
4. Praising Evaluatively
8. Excessive/Inappropriate Questioning
11. Logical Argument
Criticizing: Making a negative evaluation of the other person, or attitudes. “You brought it on yourself- you have nobody else to blame for the mess you are in.”
This is one of the judgmental roadblocks. Many feel they ought to be critical or people will never improve. Parents, teachers, supervisors. Meanwhile, it is worth observing our interactions with others to see how frequently we are critical. For some people criticism has become a way of life.
Name-Calling and Labeling: This behavior usually has negative overtones to both the sender and receiver. Labeling prevents you from getting to know others as individuals: there is no longer a person before us-only a type.
Labels and classifications make it appear that we know the other, when actually we have caught the shadow and not the substance. Labeling ourselves and others replaces human meaning and unique feelings and growing life within and between persons.
Diagnosing: This form of behavior has plagued mankind through the centuries. Some people, instead of listening to the substance of what a person is saying, play emotional detective, probing for hidden motives, psychological complexes, and the like.
Maybe you have found, that communication tends to be thwarted when one person informs another that she/he is being defensive, or self-deceiving, or that she/he is acting out of guilt or fear or some other unconscious motive or “complex.”
Praising Evaluatively There is a common belief that all honest praise is helpful, not so. Many people in authority, parents, teachers, managers, and others endorse praise without reservation. Praise is suppose to build confidence, increase security, stimulate initiative, motivate learning, generate good will and improves human relations. Thus, at first sight, praise seems to be an unlikely candidate to qualify as a roadblock. However, positive evaluations often have negative results.
Praise is often used as a gimmick to try to get people to change their behavior. When someone with ulterior purposes offers praise, there is often resentment, not only of the effort to control, but also of the manipulativeness experience. Even when it is not used manipulatively, praise often has detrimental effects.
Ordering: An order is a solution sent coercively and backed by force. When coercion is used, people often become resistant and resentful. Sabotage may result. On the other hand, people who are constantly given orders may become very compliant and submissive. Orders imply that the other’s judgment is unsound and thus tent to undermine self-esteem.
Threatening: A threat is a solution that is sent with an emphasis on punishment that will be forthcoming if the solution is not implemented. Threats produce the same kind of negative results that are produced by orders.
Moralizing: Many people love to put a halo around their solutions for others. They attempt to back their ideas with the force of social, moral or theological authority. Moralizing speaks with “shoulds” and “ought’s” but it chooses other wordings, too. “It’s the right things to do.” “You don’t visit me enough.” “Shoulds” are often implied, even when they are not stated directly.
Excessive or Inappropriate Questioning: Some kinds of question have their place in communication. However, questions can be real conversation-stoppers. A large percentage of the population is addicted to questioning. While there are constructive ways of asking occasional questions, extensive questioning, usually derails a conversation. A question can be a poor substitute for more direct communication.
Advising: This is another of the most commonly used of the roadblocks. At its worst, it represents an “interfere-iority complex.” The advice-giving trap is a rather constant temptation for most people.
Advice is often a basic insult to the God given ability to think for oneself. It implies a lack of confidence in the capacity of the person with the problem to understand and cope with his or her own difficulties. As Norman Kagan puts it, “In essence, we implicitly say to someone, “You have been making a “big deal” out of a problem whose solution is immediately apparent to me, how stupid you are!”
Another problem with advice is that the advisor seldom understands the full implications of the problem. When people share their concerns with us, they often display on the “tip of the iceberg.” The advisor is unaware of the complexities, feelings, and the many other factors that lie hidden beneath the surface.
Diverting: One of the most frequent ways of switching a conversation from the other person’s concerns to your own topic is called “diverting.” The phrase “Speaking of….” often signals the beginning of a diversion. Much of what passes for conversation is really little more than a series of diversions.
Sometimes people divert a conversation because they lack the awareness and the skills to listen effectively. Sometime they are grabbing the focus of attention for themselves. Other times people divert become they are uncomfortable with the topic.
Logical Argument: Logic has many important functions. When another person is under stress, however, or when there is conflict between people, providing logical solutions can be infuriating. Though it may seem that those are the very times we most need logic, it nevertheless has a high risk of alienation the other person.
One of the main problems with the logic in situations of personal or interpersonal stress is that it keeps others at an emotional distance. Logic focuses on facts and typically avoids feelings. When persons use logic to avoid emotional involvement, they are withdrawing from another at a most important moment.
Reassuring: This can seem like away to comfort another person while actually doing the opposite. The word comfort comes from the two Latin words, con and fortis. The combination literally means, “strengthened by being with.” Reassurance does not allow the comforter to really be with the other. It can be a form of emotional withdrawal. Reassurance is often used by people who like the idea of being helpful but who do not want to experience the emotional demand that goes with it.
Thank you Dr. Bolton for your wonderful writings that have helped many people throughout this world learns to be better communicators so that we can grow in our communities with confidence and understanding.
If you or someone you know struggles with this area please feel free to pass along my information.
I am a passionate life coach who loves to help people confidently learn to lead themselves and others into healthy community through listening well, asking good questions and learning to pause with intention.
“Empowering Personal Leadership”