Mending the Fences: Dysfunctional Communication Worksheet

Dysfunctional Communication: The Basics

Dysfunctional communication occurs when the flow of information is disrupted twisted or halted dysfunctional communication worksheet

In any human interaction, effective communication stands as the cornerstone of success.

Unfortunately, not every exchange follows a smooth and productive path.

Bad and dysfunctional communication can breed misunderstanding, resentment, and even complete breakdowns in relationships both personal and professional.

Understanding Dysfunctional Communication

Dysfunctional communication occurs when the flow of information is disrupted, twisted, or halted. 

It manifests in several ways: through aggressive language, passive-aggressive behavior, withholding information, or reactive responses that distort the essence of the original message. 

This can lead to conflicts, decreased productivity, and strained interpersonal dynamics.

Dysfunctional communication occurs when the flow of information is disrupted twisted or halted. 1 dysfunctional communication worksheet

Signs of Dysfunctional Communication 

1. Lack of Clarity: Ambiguous speeches or written messages that leave too much room for interpretation.

2. Overload: Bombarding someone with too much information, can lead to misunderstandings and stress.

3. Avoidance: Ignoring confrontational topics, which can escalate unresolved problems.

4. Passive Aggressiveness: Communicating resentment indirectly instead of addressing issues openly.

5. Non-Verbal Cues: Rolling eyes, crossed arms, or avoidance of eye contact which can communicate negative sentiments.

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Strategies to Treat Dysfunctional Communication

To navigate out of the woods of dysfunctional communication, consider implementing the following strategies:

1. Practice Active Listening

Active listening involves giving full attention to the speaker, understanding their message, responding appropriately, and remembering the information discussed. This reduces the chances of misinterpretation and builds a base for mutual understanding.

2. Use ‘I’ Statements

Communicate feelings and thoughts without blaming or criticizing by using statements that begin with ‘I’. For example, “I feel frustrated when meetings start late” rather than “You are always late to meetings.”

3. Clarify and Confirm

Don’t assume you understand the full meaning behind a message immediately. Ask for clarification, and repeat back what you think the speaker said to confirm understanding.

4. Manage Emotional Responses

Take a pause if you feel emotionally charged, ensuring you don’t respond impulsively. Address emotional responses constructively once you’re calm.

5. Establish Communication Protocols

Especially in work environments, developing standard procedures for communication can prevent misunderstandings. Set clear expectations regarding how and when to share information.

6. Embrace Constructive Feedback

Feedback should be a two-way street, with both sending and receiving parties open to discussing improvements constructively.

7. Commit to Regular Check-ins

Whether personal or professional, regular check-ins can foster open communication lines, allowing ongoing issues to be addressed promptly.

Strategies to Treat Dysfunctional Communication 1 dysfunctional communication worksheet

The Upshot 

Dysfunctional communication doesn’t just resolve itself — it requires intentional effort and adaptive strategies. By recognizing signs of ineffective communication and employing measures to address them, we can pave the way for healthier and more productive interactions.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate conflict entirely but to manage it in such a way that it leads to growth and better understanding among all parties involved.

Examples of Unhealthy Communication 

While specific studies or books elaborate extensively on these concepts, the examples below reflect widely accepted psychological principles and findings. If you find one of the below patterns dominating your interactions with others, it’s worth doing a deep dive to correct the issue. Effective communication is merely an optimized ability to meet one’s needs. Additionally, each example will have a popular text cited to enable your deep dive if you see fit.

1. Interrupting: Constantly interrupting someone indicates a lack of respect and can make the speaker feel undervalued. Gottman in “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last,” discusses how such behavior can severely affect marital stability.

2. Overgeneralizing: Using words like “always” or “never” exaggerates situations and can lead to unfair accusations. Beck in “Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstandings,” shows how cognitive distortions such as overgeneralizing can strain relationships.

3. Sarcasm: Often implies bitterness or contempt; can be damaging if used maliciously. Gottman’s research categorizes sarcasm under “contempt,” which is one of the four communication styles predicting divorce.

4. Blaming: Shifting responsibility can foster resentment and helplessness in the other person. Johnson in “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” explains how blame shifts focus from problem-solving to defending oneself.

5. Minimizing: Belittling feelings can lead to emotional disconnect and a lack of empathy. Gottman discusses how dismissing a partner’s emotions can lead to escalated conflicts and emotional distance.

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6. Avoiding: The avoidance of certain topics can prevent resolution and increase distance. Gottman also lists avoidance as a form of “stonewalling,” which is harmful in the long run for relationship health.

7. Threats: Using coercive statements can create fear and insecurity. The book, “Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High,” provides insight into how threats dismantle effective communication and problem-solving.

8. Name-calling: Degrades dignity and can lead to loss of respect. The concepts in “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Rosenberg emphasize how destructive labels and harsh language harm relationships.

9. Lying: Destroys trust, a fundamental component of any relationship. Pease, Allan, and Barbara in, “The Definitive Book of Body Language” outline how deception can be detected and its detrimental effects on relationships.

10. Bringing up the past: Distracts from current issues and can reignite old conflicts. Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg’s “Fighting for Your Marriage: Positive Steps for Preventing Divorce and Preserving a Lasting Love” discusses how dredging up the past can prevent healing and progress in conflicts.

Each of these references explores the complexities of human interactions and provides strategies for improving communication skills, highlighting the necessity of addressing and reforming unhealthy communication habits.

More Examples!

Dysfunctional communication in relationships can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and a breakdown in trust. Here are some more common types:

1. Criticism – Attacking your partner’s character or personality instead of focusing on the specific behavior that bothers you. For example, saying “You’re always so selfish!” instead of “I was upset that you didn’t ask me how I felt about your decision.”

2. Contempt – Expressing contempt can include sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is hurtful and can be an indicator of deeper resentment in the relationship. Example: Mocking your partner when they express their feelings.

3. Defensiveness – Routinely responding to relationship issues by defending oneself and denying responsibility, rather than addressing the issue or admitting fault. An example is responding with “It’s not my fault we’re late, it’s your fault for taking so long to get ready!”

4. Stonewalling – Withdrawing from a conversation or the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Signs of stonewalling include silence, changing the subject, and physically leaving the situation. Example: Walking out of the room in the middle of an argument or giving a cold shoulder when the other person is trying to communicate.

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5. Passive-Aggressive Communication – Expressing negative feelings indirectly rather than openly addressing them. Examples include making snide remarks, using facial expressions that don’t match how one actually feels, or deliberately procrastinating on tasks as a form of revenge.

6. Gaslighting – Manipulating someone to doubt their reality or sanity through denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation. An example of gaslighting would be telling a partner, “You don’t remember correctly, it didn’t happen that way,” when it indeed did.

7. Withholding – Deliberately withholding information or emotions from the relationship. This can manifest as giving the “silent treatment” or failing to share thoughts or feelings relevant to the relationship. 

A Communication Worksheet 

Addressing these types of dysfunctional communication requires awareness, the willingness to change, and often professional help, such as counseling or therapy. It’s crucial for the health of the relationship that both partners strive for open, respectful, and honest communication.

Additionally, a robust worksheet that allows thorough introspection, mindfulness, and overall awareness can expedite your growth. Utilize SOBERTOSTAYs “Unlocking Healthy Communication.”