What’s a common issue in many relationships? Communication. This is true when it comes to friends and family, as well as co-workers, a boss, employees, and more. What can often be confusing is many of the ideas touted as solutions for better connecting to and communicating with others, often only result in more problems.

Here are five common communication myths and how to avoid them:

Myth #1: Time heals all wounds

The truth is that time usually deepens wounds. If time really healed all wounds, people would not blame their behavior on their childhood and past events as they often do. In fact, time can deceive us into thinking that problems with others have been resolved, but all it takes is to see them again or something to remind us of those previous unresolved issues and we will become upset all over again. In essence, our unresolved past is lying around waiting to strike us in the present.

What to do? Do not rationalize by thinking, “Well, they are not saying or bringing it up, so I will just let it go.” Just because they are not bringing it up does not mean that they have let it go. They may feel awkward or embarrassed or they may not know how to bring it up so they have decided to bury it. The key is to proactively bring up issues and resolve them.

Myth #2: Don’t rock the boat

The truth is if you don’t rock the boat, the boat will probably sink. Faced with an issue or problem that is bothering us, many people rationalize, “I am not going to say anything. It is not that big of a deal. I don’t want to rock the boat.” The problem with this way of thinking is if we don’t say anything, the issue is unlikely to be resolved. Then what was once a small issue may fester and grow into a big problem.

What to do? As stated above, proactively bring up issues as they happen.

Myth #3: Be diplomatic

The truth is that if we are too diplomatic, the point we are trying to make will not get across and nothing will get resolved. Have you ever had someone claim that they told you something, but you really don’t remember or didn’t understand the message they were trying to send? This happened because the message being conveyed to you was so subtle that you missed the point.

What to do? When we have to communicate an issue, bringing it up in a respectful way is important, but make sure the issue and what you want done is clear and direct.

Myth #4: Use the "sandwich method"

The "sandwich method" is when you place what you really want to say between two positive compliments. The truth is, this method is so obvious that people immediately identify the strategy and feel manipulated. “I appreciate how hard you work, but blah, blah, blah… and thank you for working with me on this.” This communication trick can permanently damage relationships.

What to do? Tell people the truth. People are smart, but we are lousy actors, so be honest and clear. If you have issues, talk about them and get right to the point. When you have something nice to say, bring it up in a conversation unrelated to the problem so you can get the most benefit out of the conversation.

Myth #5: More communication leads to resolution

The truth is that simply having more communication can lead to wasting time and possibly more misunderstandings. Sometimes it is believed that the more people talk about something, that easier the message will emerge from the sheer volume of information. But how often have you been in a meeting where people “talked about things” and nothing got resolved?

What to do? Instead of just increasing the amount of communication, make sure that people know how to effectively use the different methods to communicate. These methods can make the critical difference in successfully resolving issues as they arise.

About the Author

FSteven Gaffney, founder and CEO of the Steven Gaffney Company, is the leading expert in open, honest communication, collaboration, and leading change. Gaffney’s tools and strategies have been sought out by a diverse range of leaders including military officers and top executives of multinational corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Marriott, Allstate Insurance, Defense Logistics Agency, and Barrick Gold Corporation. Gaffney is the respected author of five publications, including 21 Rules for Delivering Difficult Messages.

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