“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (Anonymous)

Many of you know what I do: I am a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. My work is extremely interesting, it requires improving myself not only on a professional but also on a personal level. It is based on building close relationships with other people and working with the process of change. And this is what I would like to share with you today – why is change so difficult for many of us? Why for many of us sometimes even the word “change” causes fear and paralysis? Why, despite the pain and suffering, do we feel that we are unable to make changes? Very often it even happens that we choose to stay in a painful situation so that nothing changes. Why?

I will not hide the fact that change IS DIFFICULT. I think we should start with the fact that a lot of people think about change as something sudden, one moment, a point in time when everything suddenly changes. And such a change is not – the change is accompanied by a process, sometimes lengthy. Change requires dedication, time, energy, repetition and perseverance. Change is related to something new, unknown – and that is what causes fear. At the beginning of the change process, you really have to make an effort not to choose the path that is well-known – to not react in the same way, not repeat the same thinking process. This well-known path is very easy for us…. so how do you deal with the fear associated with change?

There is one very cool exercise that I encourage many of my clients to do – and now I would like to encourage you too. Take a piece of paper and crayons (yes – we will draw 🙂 ). To start with, I would like to ask you to draw a bridge (whatever comes to your mind) and then draw yourself – are you on your bridge? where – at the beginning or, perhaps, in the middle? Maybe you are standing in front of the bridge, not on it? Now imagine that one side of this bridge represents your current reality. Stop here for a moment and write down everything that is related to your current situation (for example: I feel bad, I feel deeply sad, violence, gray, loneliness). The other side of the bridge is the place you want to get to – in other words, how would you like your reality to look after the change. Here, too, I would like you to write what you would like to feel or experience in a new situation (maybe freedom, joy, fulfilment, peace, friends).As you probably already guessed, the bridge is a symbol of the process of change – sometimes it seems unstable, sometimes it shakes a little, maybe some places on that bridge are cracked or hollow. From this side of the bridge the other side looks blurry and unclear. This journey into the unknown at first seems scary, uncertain so at the beginning stepping on the bridge involves some leap of faith. But believe me, it is worth overcoming fear to get to the other side because as we move along on the bridge things on the other side start to take shape and we can see them more clearly. This other side… that’s where you are waiting for what you strive for. So maybe it’s worth taking that risk? That’s one of many reasons why going to therapy can be beneficial – you don’t need to take this journey alone but with somebody who will support you at every step you take.

Today I decided that I would like to share something practical with you – namely, an exercise to which I encourage many of my clients to do when we work together. Each of us sometimes experiences disturbing thoughts. Each of us sometimes experiences terrible, obtrusive, sad, overwhelming thoughts. But not every one of us does something with them. Many of us take for granted and absolute truth what is happening in our mind – we believe that our thoughts are our reality, that they are true. But is it really so? How would you feel if I told you that this is not true? That not all our thoughts reflect an objective reality? Virtually, all of our negative thoughts are based on emotions – not facts. And here I would like to invite you to verify these questions (or should I say thoughts). So… how do you ask? How to start questioning the truthfulness of our thoughts?

The exercise is very simple: I would like you to play the role of a judge. During court hearings, the judge listens to two parties: the defence and the prosecutor right? So I would like to invite you to take a piece of paper and something to write. At the top of the page I would like you to write a thought that bothers you and then divide the piece of paper into two halves (line in the middle will be just perfect). Let’s say that the left side will be a defense of your thought – here I would like you to write EVERYTHING which in your opinion supports your thought. The right side will be the prosecutor’s side – here I would like you to write out all the factual evidence that indicates the falseness of your thoughts. After unsubscribing from both sides, I would like you to issue a “verdict” – after all, you are a judge in this exercise. Is your thought true? If you come to the conclusion that is not, how could you transform it (or re-shape it) to fit objective reality? Perhaps challenging absolutes like “always”, “never”, “every time”? Because you see… our thoughts are ONLY thoughts, not facts. Not everything we think is real – sometimes it is a reflection of our feelings but not us, not our reality. Perhaps, thinking about your thoughts as mental events instead of reality can be useful. This is something I would like you to remember every day.

It took me a few weeks to make a decision about a theme that I wanted to share with you in this post. My emotions (especially one), which I haven’t experienced for many years, helped me make the decision, namely – anxiety appeared in me. In the past, this feeling was well known to me, it accompanied me practically every day. After working through my traumas I freed myself from this feeling but it returned to me – like an old friend whom you have known for years but you have not had contact with. Reflecting on what changed, why the fear returned, I realized that for the past few weeks I had not lived in accordance with my values and beliefs. Values that are of great importance to me include family, friends, self-development, work, health, openness and honesty in relationships with myself and other people, a daily dose of exercises and practices that allow me to maintain mental/emotional health, a balance between responsibilities and pleasures.

For many of us, life has changed drastically in recent weeks. Many aspects in our lives have changed a lot – mine too. And it was here that “my old friend” found his way to me. Unpleasant thoughts began to appear: “What will happen to my work?”, “How will I cope with the change?”, “I will not be able to leave the house and enjoy the meetings/activities that give me fulfillment” – these are just some of the thoughts that appeared in my mind. I also started following news – about seven years ago I made a conscious decision to stop watching/listening to them because they influenced me in a negative way (they caused me sadness, sometimes anger and sometimes anxiety).

I will not hide that it took me some time to find a solution to say goodbye to anxiety and adapt to change in everyday life – however, I succeeded. Fear left me because I realized that I had devoted too much time and energy to focusing on things that I couldn’t do. Instead, I allowed myself to change my perspective – I began to pay attention to what is in my control and to aspects that I can still practice. I can still give my clients support but in a different form, I can still go for a walk, I can still practice yoga and meditation, I can still develop professionally and personally through reading/studying/painting/creative work, I can still develop and care for my relatives and friends, I can still laugh/dance/sing/feel the joy of being – being myself fully. And here, I would like to invite you for reflection, ask yourself the questions that I asked myself: “what in this situation can I do to keep living in harmony with myself and my values/beliefs?”, “what can I focus my attention and energy on? “,”what still makes me happy? or maybe I can discover new activities that will bring value and meaning to my life?”

I am sure that the answers to these questions will give you courage, peace, positive surprise of how much you can still do each day. I wish you successful attempts in answering the above questions and in implementing the change that you can achieve.

Consciousness of the body means exactly: a subjective awareness of bodily sensations arising under the influence of stimuli that originate both outside the body and in its interior.Emotions are diagnosed using a combination of separate bodily sensations: e.g. shallow breathing + accelerated heartbeat + cold sweats = I’m scared.

Exercise illustrating a basic body consciousness:

• First of all, do not move. Note the position in which you sit now.

• What kind of sensations you begin to realize? Scan your entire body: pay attention to the head, neck, chest, back, abdomen, buttocks, legs, feet, arms, hands.

• Are you feeling comfortable? – Do not move, for now.

• How do you know whether you are comfortable or not? What experiences indicates comfort or discomfort?

• Do you feel the impulse to change the position? – For now, do not do so only acknowledge impulse.

• Whence comes this impulse? If you had to change your position, what part of your body you will move in the first place – do not do it yet. First, determine discomfort, which lies at the source of this impulse: is this tension? Is this something that starts to numb? Do you feel cold toes?

• Listen now your impulse and change your position. What has changed in your body? Do you breathe easier? Does the pain or tension decreased? Are you more vigilant at the moment?

• If you do not feel an impulse to change the position, you can just be comfortable. Please note the signals from the body which inform you that you are comfortable: are your shoulders relaxed? Is your breathing is deep? Is your body generally warm?

• Then change your position, regardless of whether you are comfortable or not (if it is done in accordance with above instructions, do it again). Change location or way of sitting. Move somewhere else: try new chair, stand or sit on the floor. Take the new position and stay in it. Then again make a body scan of whether you are comfortable or not? What bodily sensations telling you about your it: tension, relaxation; warm cold; ache; numbness, depth and location of breath and so on. This time pay attention, are you more alert or awake in this position, or the last?

• Try the third position. Rate it as described above.Make a few notes about your experience using terms relating to bodily sensations: voltage, temperature, breathing and so on. “I sat on the chair, felt the tension in my arms, and my feet were warm. When I changed my position into standing, my feet were cold, and my shoulders relaxed … “Sometimes we forget about our bodies (or we perceiving it as our enemy not a good friend) as we are living only in our heads – take a break from your mind and give your body some attention 🙂

Cognitive distortions

Let’s start with what cognitive errors are actually. This is a general term for an irrational way of perceiving reality. They may be caused by limited cognitive resources, lack of time, lack of motivation to formulate correct judgments or a desire to maintain well-being. In short – logic suggests something completely different, and yet we behave in contradiction to it. It happens that cognitive errors are helpful – they speed up the decision making process, and the risk they carry is small compared to the profits. It also happens, however, that their effects are catastrophic. That is why it is worth to be aware of them, observe how often and in what situations they appear with us and work out a way to get out of them if necessary. Below are some examples of typical thought traps.

1. Anchor heuristics: According to this principle, people attach the greatest importance to the first information they hear. It becomes a point of attachment and based on it then the whole thinking process is activated. This information, therefore, defines in some way the space and scope in which you then move, is a reference point. It is worth remembering, for example, during negotiations – according to this principle, when negotiating your salary, it is worth starting with a high amount, not only to leave room for concessions, but also to “anchor” the other side on the desired scale.

2. Contrast effect: I have been using a certain smartphone model for a long time. The times of splendor were already behind him, a bit bad, photos did not go out as beautiful as on a much newer model of my partner. When we compared the two phones with each other – mine seemed definitely weaker, had fewer functions and I felt that I would like to replace it as soon as possible. Until one day my phone landed on the floor, the quick went to a small poppy and for a few days I was to transfer the SIM card to the previous camera, which I saved for exactly such a case. And you know what? When I started walking with this quite old camera in my pocket, my last phone (the one that crashed) didn’t seem so weak anymore! It had a much better camera, faster processor, more functions. He was regarded as the pinnacle of technology in my eyes! And I dreamed of returning to it, even though recently I wanted to exchange it. The contrast effect worked, i.e. increasing or decreasing the observed features of the object depending on comparing it with another. You will observe the same phenomenon in relationships with people – the assessment of traits, abilities, competences, predispositions, skills can be very different depending on who you take as a reference point and with whom you compare. Objectively, this should not happen, because the characteristics of a person or object do not change at all, but a person is not a computer – it is not always logical.

3. Confirmation effect: It is a tendency to seek only arguments confirming our opinion or thesis and to omit those that contradict or verify it. I bet you sometimes fall victim to this cognitive error. You face a complex problem at work, but you already have similar experiences, a developed way of working. Based on this feeling, you formulate your decision. The boss asks you to think about it, so you start rummaging in the data and … by some strange luck they all confirm your point of view. You go to a meeting with this decision, a teammate expresses his fears and recalls situations in which a similar approach ended in failure. So you enter into a fiery discussion, because someone dares to question your opinion, which you confirmed by analyzes. But say – what did you look for in the data? Did you accidentally subconsciously reach for only those that were supposed to confirm your point of view?Next time, go to a higher level and try honestly … refute your thesis before others do it for you. Only then will you find out if it is real. By the way, watch out for the decision support effect, according to which it is much more difficult for us to get out of the choice we have made, even though in time we start to notice its shortcomings.

4. Focus effect: The point is that you pay so much attention to one aspect/feature that you ignore the other, equally important. Recently I experienced it buying a fridge. Normally, with such a decision I would be guided by functionality, technical parameters and price. However, because of the architectural design there were big restrictions on its size – this aspect came to the fore! It came to the point that we began to compare selected models only in terms of dimensions, forgetting that we wanted a zero chamber, good energy class and easy cleaning. One evening I sobered up, knocked my head and called the architects to change the design. I did not intend to limit myself any longer, because in a few weeks it would not have any impact on my comfort of use. I shook off the focus effect.

5. Shock illusion: Have you ever been nervous about being nervous? Or remain in a very unsuccessful relationship only for fear of suffering and loneliness after separation? The illusion of shock probably worked then, i.e. the tendency to overestimate the intensity and severity of future emotional states. The effect also works the other way around – we sometimes overestimate the feeling of happiness that overwhelms us when we get a promotion or go on vacation. Watch out for a hard landing, when the state of nirvana you hoped for would not prevail! Preferably instead of thinking about what it will be like in a while – focus on how it is now.

6. Reluctance to Loss: It’s a tendency to prefer avoiding losses over multiplying profits. This, of course, involves the risks we are willing to take. Loss seems to us more severe than no profit. Because we already have something, we are attached to it, it is ours. And the potential profit is only potential. And of course in certain situations this approach can be helpful – it protects us from taking irrational risks. However, if the fear of loss begins to cut you off from new opportunities or development – make an effort to get out of this trap.

7. The principle of attachment: Occurs if you act or form an opinion in a certain way, just because most people do/think so. You follow the crowd without actually assessing the benefits or losses. Sometimes because you lack the full information, sometimes because of time, and sometimes you simply save energy needed to make your own decision. Recently, I heard a good example from one of the neighbors. We talked about the advantages of wooden and stone terraces. The neighbor admitted that in retrospect he would definitely prefer to have a wooden terrace, but when he constructed it, everyone around decided on the tiled option. So he went the same way instead of breaking out.

8. The gambler’s paradox: If the heads have fallen out of coin in the last 10 tosses, what is the probability that it will also be eleven times? Exactly 50%. And yet it seems to us much more likely that we will finally see the eagle. After all, it’s impossible for this tails chain to last without a break. Gamblers very often succumb to such delusion (e.g. when playing roulette), hence the name of this cognitive error. Why is this happening? We assess individual coin tosses as being dependent on each other, forming a series in which the coin “remembers” to which side it fell previously. In fact, however, these events are completely unrelated to each other and the probability is determined separately for each of them. So if you play a lottery or any other game of chance – remember this trap!

9. The illusion of asymmetrical insight: Do you think you know everything about your partner, friends, colleagues? Do you know their needs, strengths and weaknesses, values, preferences? You always tell them what they should do, choose, say. And at the same time it annoys you if someone is wondering what is best for you, because how can he know it … You probably fall victim to the illusion of asymmetrical insight and overestimate your knowledge about others, you consider it much deeper than the knowledge of others about you. Be careful, because this approach can seriously threaten your relationships.
10. The illusion of transparency: Can’t he see that I’m sad? Instead of staring at the TV or going to training, he should pay attention to me. He certainly knows how I feel, and yet he ignores me. Maybe he doesn’t care about me anymore? STOP! Before you get into such thoughts, think about whether you’re accidentally heading into the trap of another thought trap – the illusion of transparency. It involves overestimating the visibility of your emotional state to other people. You think it is obvious and clear that you are sad, angry, nervous, tired today … but the world does not see it at all! So if you enter an interview and are afraid that recruiters will immediately notice your high stress level … there is a high probability that you are wrong. The same applies to public speaking, competitions and important meetings. People don’t have radars in their heads. Of course, if they are distinguished by a high level of empathy, they will probably notice subtle signs flowing from body language, tone or tempo. However, they see and know much less than you think. Your mood is not always written on your face, so if you want someone to notice it, just talk about it.

Oh, there are many pranks that the mind plays on us. And above I mentioned only a few of them. Have you found a trap that you often fall into yourself? I hope you will now increase your mindfulness and capture these situations.

Our inner child is still within us. It did not go away with the process of growing up. This is the voice we hear in times when we allow ourselves a bit of freedom and get excited about various things. It is this voice that sometimes asks us how to heal all kinds of emotional wounds from the past…

We often hear about “the need to heal our psyche.” Simply put, you can treat her as a child who is still in us. Our first years of life and experiences that we acquire as children will shape the majority of our personality, our values, emotional balance and self-esteem. However, these early memories can also become full of fears and anxieties casting a shadow on our adulthood. But they can also be only nice and positive memories of a full and happy childhood that accompany us as we become adults.

It is there, in the middle of an extremely well hidden corner of our soul, that our inner child hides. A lot of adults pretends to be mature people, extremely confident. Each of us would like to see ourselves as a well-protected, in massive armour of a great warrior who can easily face the complicated world outside. However, many times after we close our eyes, we realize that something is missing. That something hurts us. Something causes various mental wounds that do not occur outside the body, but inside, in our mind. Inside each of us is a child with different levels of development and unmet needs. It’s time to discover them and give him a helping hand.

The requirements and expectations of our inner child:

It is already clear that it will be important to accept that our own inner child is within us. At this point we come to another important issue – what our inner child can ask us or what we would like to ask him/her. Here are some suggestions: Your inner child may ask you to solve some of his past aspects. You may need to explain some childhood events. Perhaps one of them requires forgiveness or offering it to someone else? However, if you don’t have any emotional problems from the past that still remains unsolved then our inner child requires us a little more fantasy and freedom, so that we are less susceptible to various restrictions in our daily lives. It will be important that you allow yourself to make your reality a little more colourful and attractive. To this end, you need to reject all your fears and stress. Be more spontaneous. Let us have a little more laughter, recover some of the lost innocence and let’s get to know our emotions again. Our inner child also expects love. Let’s love and be loved. Let’s overcome your objections, shame or your gray and colourless image as an adult. Let’s just allow ourselves some emotional freedom.

How to cure our inner child?

The whole process of emotional healing requires full and true conviction of the rightness of our decision. No one can become free if we want to force him to do so. Throw away your mask behind which you are hiding, do not judge yourself or criticize your behaviour. Just lay out everything you have in front of you and promise yourself that you will cure your inner child. You can change your attitude in one day, but it can take longer then that. The ideal situation is that you will be able to say to yourself: “Well, I have suffocated freedom for such and such reasons, but now it’s time to free my inner child.” Thanks to this, you will realize that you have found yourself on the right path, and the target located at its end will provide you with a sufficiently strong motivation to embark on a journey during which you will realize that you have nothing to hide. But first it should be perfectly clear to you that we cannot solve a specific problem unless we first find out that it really exists. For example, think about your everyday life…

Make changes:

Do you constantly struggle with too much stress? Have you lost your hope? Do you feel that your partner does not make you a happy person? Is there any kind of love that you miss and you can’t define? This simple and small exercise, described below, involving visual and emotional reconstruction of events that can help you in many ways:- Take your picture from the time you were a child, e.g. aged 7 or 8- Focus. Let the memories come back to you. In silence and concentration evoke these years from the recesses of memory and feel free. After a while, emotions and images will come to you.- Now imagine yourself with this child. There will be two of you then. You as an “adult” and you as a “child” face to face.- You can now ask him or her what he feels, what he thinks, what she lacks, what he needs. Ask what this child you would like to have or get to feel completely at ease and confident.

Think about this. Without a shadow of a doubt, this exercise can be helpful.

Core beliefs – contain basic particles of knowledge about ourselves, other people and the world in which we live. Core beliefs are formed from an early age of our lives and are usually based on our children’s interpretations of the various events in which we participate, and interaction with people around us. Often their source are parents, guardians or older siblings, because it is with them that we spend the most time and observe them trying to learn how to move in a world which is complicated for children. Because of the time they begin to form (early childhood) and their sources (important people), core beliefs are characterized by the fact that:- They have the form of simple statements like: I’m stupid, useless, others are critical, hostile, the world is dangerous. (They can also have positive content, like others are helpful or I’m special);- We automatically accept their content as the truth about the world, others or ourselves;- They are deeply rooted in our psyche and very often we are not consciously aware of their content.Usually they activate automatically, and we notice it feeling unpleasant emotions and/or observing the appearance of automatic thoughts related to a given situation.The impact of core beliefs on the interpretation of events:Core beliefs are a kind of filter through which we interpret reality. Let’s examine it on two examples:1. Chris conducts a lecture for students. Some listeners seem very interested, some just listen, and some seem to be very bored. Being convinced “I AM UNIQUE” Chris focuses primarily on the part of the audience that seems very interested – their interest causes Chris to appear in the thought “I’m good at it”, “I’m doing great”. The fact that some seem to be bored, Chris explains to himself thinking: “What are they doing in college? They are here by mistake!” And “They are idiots, they cannot appreciate my knowledge.” Thus, Chris’s belief of his uniqueness is maintained.2. Robert’s belief is: “I AM INCOMPETENT.” With this core belief in a similar lecture situation, he would focus on those bored thinking: “I shouldn’t be here, I’m not fit for it!”, “This lecture is a failure!”. He could think of those very interested: “They are probably waiting for me to make a mistake and make fun of me!” As a result, Robert’s sense of incompetence persists.In the examples with Chris and Robert we can observe one more important feature of core beliefs: looking at the world through their prism we also automatically make a certain selection of information – we tend to easily catch information CONFIRMING our belief and to reject or distort information that PRESS the truth of the belief. As a result, our beliefs can sustain themselves. Because of this, core beliefs will not fade away, no matter how much we would like to.How to change the content of core beliefs?The good news is that our core beliefs are just concepts about ourselves, not objective truth. We can try to identify them by looking for repetitive patterns in situations where we observe the appearance of unpleasant emotions and observe our automatic thoughts. Once we realize the content of unhelpful core beliefs, we can begin to observe the situations in which they activate and their impact on our thoughts and emotions. We can also try to question them by asking ourselves: “If my belief were the opposite of what I am now, how would I perceive this situation?” Thanks to this, we will be able to approach various situations more rationally. By challenging unhelpful core beliefs we can also re-build a healthy relationship with ourselves. Try – you are worth it 🙂

Disputing your self-talk means challenging the negative or unhelpful aspects. Doing this enables you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way. Learning to dispute negative thoughts might take time and practice, but is worth the effort. Once you start looking at it, you’ll probably be surprised by how much of your thinking is inaccurate, exaggerated, or focused on the negatives of the situation. Whenever you find yourself feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, use this as your signal to stop and become aware of your thoughts. Use your feelings as your cue to reflect on your thinking. A good way to test the accuracy of your perceptions might be to ask yourself some challenging question. These questions will help you to check out your self-talk to see whether your current view is reasonable. This will also help you discover other ways of thinking about your situation.

There are four main types of challenging questions to ask yourself:

1. Reality testing:• What is my evidence for and against my thinking?• Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?• Am I jumping to negative conclusions?• How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?

2. Look for alternative explanations:• Are there any other ways that I could look at this situation?• What else could this mean?• If I were being positive, how would I perceive this situation?

3. Putting it in perspective:• Is this situation as bad as I am making out to be?• What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it?• What is the best thing that could happen?• What is most likely to happen?• Is there anything good about this situation?• Will this matter in five years time?When you feel anxious, depressed or stressed-out your self-talk is likely to become extreme, you’ll be more likely to expect the worst and focus on the most negative aspects of your situation. So, it’s helpful to try and put things into their proper perspective.

4. Using goal-directed thinking:• Is thinking this way helping me to feel good or to achieve my goals?• What can I do that will help me solve the problem?• Is there something I can learn from this situation, to help me do it better next time?Recognizing that your current way of thinking might be self-defeating (e.g., it doesn’t make you feel good or help you to get what you want) can sometimes motivate you to look at things from a different perspective. You can conquer your negative self-talk today by challenging yourself with these questions every time you catch yourself thinking something negative to yourself. Try it 🙂

Learning effective communication can feel like mastering a new language. A number of ingrained patterns can make the process especially challenging:

• Low Self-Esteem — It is difficult to be in a healthy relationship with someone who has low self-esteem. The person may be so busy wondering what other people think of him/her or feeling unworthy of love that they, consciously or unconsciously, push people away.

• Perfectionism — People often put pressure on themselves to be perfect — to say the right thing every time and create a perfect image of themselves in the minds of others. But authentic relationships aren’t showy; rather, they are defined by honesty and acceptance of self and others, flaws and all.

• Shame — Some people feel a great deal of shame, particularly in early recovery when they begin to face the consequences of their past behavior. Left unchecked, shame can be paralyzing. Shame directs the person’s focus inward, preventing them from listening attentively and being honest, spontaneous and fully engaged in conversation.

• Dishonesty — In active addiction for example, dishonesty not only came naturally but also served a valuable protective function. Lying and manipulating others allowed the compulsive drug use to continue, which at least at the time seemed essential for survival. In recovery, dishonesty is the enemy of effective communication (and of recovery itself). You cannot develop genuine intimacy with others if the relationship is built on dishonesty.

• Lack of Boundaries — people have difficulty establishing healthy boundaries. They may say yes when they mean no; they may trample on the rights of others. It is common for people to divulge too much information too soon and trust others without discernment.

• Aggression/Passivity — In conflicts with others, do you have difficulty finding the balance between saying something overly harsh and not saying anything at all? A lot of people do, especially those who haven’t had much practice coping with anger. You may be overly passive, bottling up your feelings or giving undue weight to other people’s needs; overly aggressive, disregarding other people’s rights and trying to “win” at all costs; or passive-aggressive, trying to accommodate others on the outside but acting aggressively in subtle ways (e.g., saying yes but meaning no). All of these approaches allow conflicts to go unresolved.

Five essential skills for effective communication

Fortunately, communication skills can be learned, and are an area of emphasis in psychotherapy. Some useful tools in early include:


Positive communication requires people to let go of familiar tactics like manipulation and replace them with assertiveness. This doesn’t mean getting pushy or demanding what you want, but rather approaching others with honesty and straightforwardness to prevent misunderstandings and to protect yourself from being taken advantage of.Assertiveness is having the confidence to say no when needed, and accepting limits set by others. It is taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions while allowing others to own their own feelings and actions. It means doing these things even if they make you unpopular or challenge you to step outside your comfort zone. In some cases, it may mean ending a relationship with someone who repeatedly disrespects your boundaries.The tools of assertiveness include making specific requests, establishing eye contact, refraining from being overly apologetic and using “I feel” statements to avoid blaming others. By setting and enforcing healthy boundaries, you can get your own needs met while still respecting the rights of others.

Positive self-talk

The way you communicate with yourself is just as important as the way you interact with others. Your inner voice may be your worst critic, haranguing you with guilt and shame. By challenging negative self-talk with positive affirmations and praise for each step toward self-growth, you turn this voice into your biggest supporter.

Reading social cues

Some of the most important components of effective communication don’t involve words at all. Often we are left to read between the lines by observing body language, facial expressions and tone of voice if we want to fully understand other people.

Give and take

Relationships are a two-way street. When others listen to you and offer support, you do the same in return. For some people, this concept may require practice along with gentle reminders from loved ones.


Empathy is one of the most fundamental human capacities. It involves stepping into someone else’s shoes and trying to understand their thoughts and feelings. Attending self-help support groups can help restore the empathy deficits through sharing stories and lending support and feedback to others.Without these fundamental skills, relationships can be stressful and triggering. A simple misunderstanding can feel like a colossal failure. Although awkward at first, communication skills can be mastered by anyone at any stage of life. Empowerment, confidence and less stress await people who learns to communicate effectively.