Sunday, January 2, 2011

Communication Styles - Tricks Before Recovery versus Tools After Recovery

I haven't read any sober blogs in two weeks and I miss it!  I can't wait to catch up today.  I hope everyone had a blessed Holiday Season.  Mine was busy with God, family, gifts, food, shopping, decorating, cleaning, more family, more cleaning, and hanging out with my husband and kids. 

Last week we saw the movie, Tangled.  It is based on the story of Rapunzel, the princess with the long, golden hair.  "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair."  The movie was funny, adventurous, and dramatic.  I highly recommend it for kids and adults alike.

Communication Tricks Before Recovery

Photo source
I hate to admit it but the witch in the movie, who held Rapunzel hostage in a high tower for the first eighteen years of her life, reminded me of me!  The witch was nicey, nicey to every one's face and schemed and manipulated behind their backs.  If I was ever an expert at anything in my life, being passive-aggressive was it.  "Kill them with kindness" had a whole different meaning for me than I think it was meant to have.

I grew up with a aggressive father and a passive mother.  I picked up traits from both of them and ended up being a well-blended mix of both.  A mutt of unhealthy communication skills, if you will.  My bag of tricks contained all of the following:
  • verbal attacks
  • threats
  • guilt trips
  • silent treatments
  • sarcasms
  • cynicism
  • negativity
  • vengeful acts against people that may or may not know about them
  • and most confusing to those around me, like the witch in the movie did, I was an expert at taking verbal jabs at others and quickly following them up with an innocent smile and a "I'm just kidding" lie.  I did this to express my anger but gave myself a way out in case they didn't like what I said.  Fear of what people thought of me played a huge roll in my unhealthy communication style.
Thinking about the way I was, let alone writing about it here, makes me cringe and feel a bit nauseous. 

Communication Tools In Recovery

However, in the past few years I have learned new, healthier ways to communicate, including:
  • beginning statements with "I" instead of "You."  For example, "I feel uncomfortable when you belittle her in front of me" rather than "You're so mean to her.  You're a jerk."
  • avoiding all or nothing qualifiers such as "always" and "never."  For example, "I always do everything around here" or "I never get to do what I want."  For me, all or nothing statements are rarely true or simply gross over-exaggerations, which give the other person an opportunity to respond with specific examples that prove my statements false.  So, I try not to even go there.  Really, it is a subtle form of dishonesty.
  • asking for help by admitting my limitations to others.  For example, rather than falling against the wall with the back of my hand to my forehead, giving my husband my best Scarlet O'Hara impression, and saying, "I do everything around here.  This house would fall apart if it weren't for me," I can instead say, "Hey, babe, I am feeling overwhelmed this week.  Could you help me by doing this, this, and this?" 
  • which brings me to another facet about communication I learned in recovery:  PEOPLE CANNOT READ MY MIND.  Who knew?  I didn't.  I thought I knew what you were thinking and feeling so it stood to reason that you should always know what I thought and felt and what I wanted and didn't want.  It turns out that you don't know these things unless I TELL YOU.  Amazing!  Additionally, I don't know what you think, feel, want, or don't want unless YOU TELL ME.  What a revelation!  Better yet, what a relief!  Not to have to assume, guess, and feel responsible for anticipating your wants and needs is the most freeing thing in the world!  I never realized what hard work being a good codependent was until I stopped being one.

I still pull from my old bag of tricks when it comes to communicating with others, which invariably leads to chaos in my mind, my environment or both.  On the other hand, when I choose to pick up the tools of healthy communication, I give myself a real chance to experience peace of mind and true love of others.

What is your communication style?  How's that working or not working for you?

Happy New Year!


  1. Thanks for checking in.
    I think communication is imperative to my serenity.

  2. Very good blog today! I guess I would have had to have been your sister witch. I used all those old tactics of communication that you said you used. As a mother who was raised on guilt, it was my trump card that I used too often. For me the key to better communication lies in keeping my side of the street clean. If I'm struggling with issues pertaining to someone else it's because I have issues with myself. I have to find out what is eating me, then take a walk in their shoes, and finally own up to my part in the pageant. Thanks for this great reminder, and I hope you and your family have a great New Year!

  3. I have done all that you mentioned. Every time I talk with others who try their tricks on me, my first thought is to retaliate. But restraint of tongue is a good thing. I do my best to keep my mouth shut and not say something that I would regret or that would inflame the situation. I do make "I" statements though. And have learned to not participate in verbal sparring. Great post!


Thank you for sharing!