Do words really matter?

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Some of us think that what others say to us doesn’t matter. You know…the ole “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” thing.

Although this may be somewhat true for some, in reality words do have significant impact. Try this exercise. Make two columns on a piece a paper. At the top of the left column write “hurtful” and on the top of the right column write “healing”. Now list words or phrases under each that has an impact on you. For example, under hurtful words you might list words such as – lazy, slob, dumb, fat, etc. Do the same for the healing column which may include words such as – sorry, I’m here for you, responsible. These don’t have to be words that have been said to you directly, but words that you hear or think about.

Add to your list throughout the day. At the end of the day, review the list and give some thought to which words impact you the most and why. Does it matter which person in your life said those to you? Does it matter if you said them to someone else?

Words have the power to make us feel emotion, change our self concept or self esteem, and move us to action.

It’s time to fix what isn’t working

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No one is going to save you and fix your communication issues. I know that sounds harsh. But it’s reality. We can’t change other people. We can only change ourselves. We often blame others for our communication issues. We say things like, “If he would just…..” Or “If only she…” It’s time to take responsibility for the interactions and outcomes of our relationships. Keep in mind that I am only talking about healthy relationships here – this does not apply to abusive relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship, this requires professional help and I urge to get some.

When we aren’t happy with our communication in a relationship, we have to change how WE are interacting, what WE are saying, and how WE are listening. Keep in mind that we have a long history of patterned interactions with the people in our lives. When we change anything about our communication, it has the potential to make the other person wonder what’s up. Let me give you an example……

Let’s say you yell at me to get your point across or when you’re trying to get me to do something. When you yelled at me, I knew what to do with that. When you yelled, I yelled back. When you yelled, I shut down and didn’t engage. When you yelled, I walked away. This is our pattern of interaction. Then one day you decide to stop yelling. This throws me off and I wonder why you aren’t yelling. Then one day you want to yell, but you don’t. Instead, you calmly talk to me. Now I’m left with not knowing what to do, so I will try my old pattern to push your buttons to get you to yell. Again, you don’t yell. Now I am frustrated and might yell at you. Again, you do not engage in that old pattern of yelling. You then explain to me that you are no longer going to yell at me nor will you tolerate me yelling at you. It has now become my issue where I have to choose how I interact with you. Although I don’t like the whole yelling cycle, it is familiar and comfortable and I know what to do. Because you are no longer yelling, I have to change my communication habits and adapt to a healthier way of interacting.

We often continue patterns because they are familiar and easy even though we may not like them. Change requires a lot of time and effort.

So….let’s recap…..our communication is a choice. Yes….. I said A CHOICE. Make the choices that create a healthy level of communication which generates respect. Keep dialogue open and stay firm in your changes. You can do this!

Time now = time in the future

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We spend time doing what we love or on things that are important to us. If you’re out to lunch with a friend and you are on your phone the whole time, you are communicating that your phone, Facebook, or whatever is more important than the friend across from you. If your child comes home from school to tell you something exciting and you’re on your phone only half paying attention to her, she gets the message that she’s not important to you – your phone is more important. Unfortunately, when she’s a teenager and really needs to talk with you, she will have gotten the message for years that other things are more important.

When you are spending time with someone important to you, make sure they know it – turn off your phone and give them the eye contact and attention they deserve. Be alert to what you spend your time doing. At the end of the day, are you happy with how you spent the minutes and hours? Are you happy with the “messages” that you have sent to others?


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Welcome to my blog – Arizona’s Family Meeting Coach – aka, Vicki Sebade. I graduated from Arizona State University in 2008 with my Master’s degree in Communication Studies. I have studied and researched the dynamics, processes, and outcomes of family communication. I have volunteered at local domestic violence shelters and foster care facilities. My intention with this blog is to take my knowledge and transfer it in way that allows others to apply the skills of family communication directly to their lives. With that, the information on this blog will be opinion and fact based. My hope is that this blog will help you improve your communication as a result of the information I provide.