The Importance of Communication and How Therapy Helps

What is Communication?

Through communication, we build intimacy and, on the other end of the spectrum, start war. Communication is present every day of our lives. Communication can take on many forms and include verbal, physical, emotional, written, artistic, spiritual, or more.  Even as newborns, we use communication by crying to get our needs met and ensure survival. As teenagers, communication continues to grow as we develop, mature, go to school, learn, and discover the power of socialization. As adults, communication is what keeps the world running. It is how we have a government, societal norms, love, fun, and even intimacy.  importance of communication and how therapy helps

So, yes, communication is everywhere. But, with its omnipotent presence, one wonders, why are there so many difficulties with effective communication? 

The world would be so much easier if we all learned to state what we thought, felt, and wanted straightforwardly and adaptively.

But this isn’t always the case. 

Think about it, when was the last time you were “misunderstood” by a loved one or friend? Or how about via text message? Have you ever had someone “read your tone” incorrectly? What about the times when your emotions got the best of you and what you had initially calculated to be a well-thought-out discussion of facts comes out as screaming, crying, and straight-up embarrassment? 

Without adaptive communication, it is nearly impossible to get our needs met. 

So how does one communicate effectively? 

Before we discuss, let’s explore some of the many different styles of communication. 

What Are Different Types of Communication

There are many communication styles, with the four significant types being aggressive, assertive, passive, and passive-aggressive. Each is characterized by unique language and behaviors and elicits different effects when used.  

Aggressive communication can be clear and direct but may occur in a way that is rude, inappropriate, or violates the rights and respect of others. Those who have trouble communicating may display this type of communication style due to frustration or disagreement.

In passive communication, individuals may avoid expressing themselves openly and honestly, and opinions are voiced inconspicuously, if at all. Passive communication may be used by people who fear standing up for themselves and setting boundaries for their well-being. 

Passive-aggressive communication occurs when individuals express themselves in an unclear or confusing way. Passive-aggressive communication can result in someone acting out of anger indirectly after first acting passively, and they may feel powerless, stuck, or resentful of their circumstances, leading to aggression. 

Someone who communicates assertively tends to be clear, direct, and honest about their thoughts and feelings. They express themselves appropriately, standing up for their well-being without violating others. 

Understanding how you communicate can help you find ways to express yourself more effectively and knowing whether therapy can be helpful to you. For example, individuals with aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive communication styles may benefit from treatment to integrate more respectful, direct, and explicit forms of communication.

Ultimately, therapy will focus on promoting assertive communication styles to ensure adaptive self-expression and interpersonal relationships.

Causes of Communication Issues 

Healthy communication forms the foundation of healthy and quality intimate, professional, and platonic relationships. Communication issues stem from a variety of circumstances and within many social relationships. It is easy and common for individuals to misunderstand each other, potentially leading to arguments or tensions. 

Arising conflicts can make communication even more challenging. There are many reasons people may have trouble communicating with others. These difficulties can result in concerns or thoughts not being shared or being delivered in harmful ways. 

Differing Opinions & Communication

When two or more people hold different opinions, this may lead to fundamental communication difficulties. Without maintaining assertive communication, differences may turn to volatile arguments and hurt feelings.

For example, aggressive communication may lead others to react violently, while passive communication may confuse what is being communicated. On the other hand, passive-aggressive communication may lead to both a confused withdrawal and violent reaction from others.

It’s okay to have differing opinions; however, a simple disagreement may lead to confusion or even anger if not communicated assertively and, therefore, properly.

Culture & Communication

Challenges can also result from differences in cultural backgrounds or personal experiences. For example, communication styles vary between cultures, and specific communication methods may be interpreted differently depending on one’s culture.

To illustrate, western culture emphasizes physical space while communicating, while some eastern cultures appreciate proximity and touch. Without adequately understanding anothers’ cultural norms, others may interpret differing communication styles as rude, invasive, or straight-up confusing.

In the same fashion, communication difficulties may also present with differing language barriers since understanding the subtleties or nuances of native speakers can lead to conflict or confusion. 

Health and Communication

Physical and mental health also play a role in communicating effectively and respectfully. Individuals experiencing distress may become tired of discussing their issues with different healthcare providers or find it difficult to talk about specific experiences.

These situations, along with other communication issues, may result from:

  • Childhood stress
  • Physical and mental health issues
  • Trauma
  • Misinterpretation of others’ words or motivations
  • Failure to understand another person’s point of view
  • Cultural/language barriers 
  • Stonewalling
  • Aggressive behavior or remarks
  • Poor listening

Furthermore, several mental health conditions make adaptive communication inherently more challenging.

Some mental health issues that can cause communication difficulties include:

  • Social Anxiety
  • Agoraphobia
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Body Dysmorphia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Do I need therapy for my communication issues? 

If you or someone you know is debating whether to seek psychotherapy for their communication issues, here are some questions to help guide you in your decision:

  • Do you find it difficult to stand up for yourself in situations where you are uncomfortable or disagree?
  • Do you find it hard to communicate with those who hold different opinions than you?
  • Do others disregard things that you say without responding or considering them?
  • Have you experienced underlying trauma or difficulties that may influence your ability to communicate with others?
  • Do you find yourself lashing out at others or getting overly angry over everyday disputes?

People with communication issues may relate their experiences to some or all of these questions. If your functioning in daily life is greatly affected by these habits, therapy may be recommended and helpful in improving your relationship with yourself and others. 

How can therapy help my communication issues? 

There are many ways therapy can help individuals struggling with adaptive communication.

At Washington Psychological Wellness, we understand that different individuals require different approaches to treatment and offer family, couples, and individual therapeutic settings. 

Our therapists will help individuals examine different communication strategies and determine how clients can most effectively convey their thoughts, needs, and goals.

In therapy, clients will explore the underlying causes of their communication difficulties and differentiate between misinterpretations and inaccuracies in communication. Clients will also work through past and present issues with a compassionate and understanding counselor to improve their interpersonal/intergroup communication skills. 

What are my next steps? 

Addressing the issues that accompany poor communication can take time.

At Washington Psychological Wellness, your therapist will help you determine the root cause of your communication issues and develop adaptive skills and strategies to implement into your day-to-day life.

In addition, our therapists will help you in approaching your communication struggles as they arise and work to build sustainable solutions and habits. Contact us now to see if therapy for adaptive communication building may be helpful for you!

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