Five Secrets of Effective Communication


Five Secrets of Effective Communication

In his book, “Therapist’s Toolkit”, David D. Burns, MD., talks about five secrets of effective communication.  He believes that if you use these tools you will have better interactions with those around you.  Here are the five tips that Dr. Burns suggests.


Listening Skills

1.  The Disarming Technique:  Find some element of truth in what another person is saying, even if it seems totally unfair, unreasonable, or unrealistic to you.

2.  Empathy:  Try to put yourself in the other person’s position and “see the world through their eyes”.

Dr. Burns indicates that there are two types of empathy:

a.  Feeling empathy:  Acknowledge how the other person might be feeling.  For example, (partner is speaking), “So then the clerk told me to go to the end of the line and that was about all I could take.”  (other partner) “It sounds like that must have made you really angry.”

b.  Thought empathy:  Paraphrase or summarize the other person’s words so that they feel heard.  For example, (partner is speaking), “I have ten things that need to be done by noon today, so I would love to have some help!”  (other partner) “You have a lot of things to do today, and you could use my help.  Is that right?”

3.  Inquiry:  Ask inquisitive questions in a gentle way to learn more about what the other person is thinking and feeling.


Self-Expression Skills

4.  “I Feel” Statements:  Use statements such as “I feel upset,” rather than “you” statements.  “I feel” statements simply describe your experience.  Statements like “you are wrong” or “you’re making me furious!” add a connotation of blame.

5.  Stroking:  Find something genuinely positive to say to the other person, even in the heat of battle.  Doing this transmits an attitude of respect.  You can disagree, but still appreciate and value the other person.

If used in a thoughtful way, Dr. Burns five secrets of effective communication could definitely enhance people’s ability to interact  more positively with each other.

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