Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2015
Written by 

Become an effective communicator — Prevent confusion, hurt feelings and more with these tips

When it comes to real estate, the key is location, location, location. When it comes to communication, the key is effective, effective, effective. Although most everyone has the need to communicate on a daily basis, many of us could help ourselves and others by doing it better.

During a recent visit to my parents, we were catching up and making a plan for our time together. My parents shared that they had one commitment for the day: They needed to go to Maryhill, the local nursing home, and push people down. My husband (of course knew what they were referring to) responded, “There’s something that sounds not quite right about that. Is that what you do for entertainment around here? Go the nursing home to push people down?” We all had a good laugh.

My mom and dad are very active volunteers at the nursing home. One of the things they do is to push the residents in their wheelchairs or beds down to the chapel for the daily service or mass. They have over the years shortened the description of this labor of love to “pushing people down.”

This bring-a-smile-to-your-face story does demonstrate a very important principle of communication: Our actions, body language or even words all play significant parts in communicating effectively with others. In this story, my parents’ words certainly did not convey the message they intended. Not being aware that there is often an “under the radar” or “read between the lines” message in communication can create problems with misunderstandings, confusion, hurt feelings and even significant conflicts in relationships.

Here is an example of a more common message mix-up: “The dishes are always left out on the counter. I have asked you to put them in the dishwasher so I don’t have to deal with them when I get home from work.” Given the chance to explore, the connection is made that the dishes on the counter is not the real issue but rather the message sent by the action is what hurts. Often the message is: “They don’t respect me. They don’t care about me or I don’t matter enough to them.”

At this point, the individual who is leaving the dishes out usually indicates that they truly do respect and care about the other. It was never their intention to be disrespectful or less caring towards the person. They just had no idea that their actions were sending such a hurtful message.

One way each of us can try to lessen message mix-ups is to walk aware of what possible message we might be sending. If someone gets upset about what we have said or done, checking in with the person to ask what message they received from us could go a long way to minimize hurt feelings and reset the relationship. Another option is to remember to ask ourselves “What message do I want my spouse, my friend, my parent to take away?” Working from that question, we can make choices that insure the message we want to send is the message that gets sent. We can make sure that our actions and our delivery system are all working to send the message we want.

Another way to increase our effectiveness as communicators is to do less “MAPing” and more “SAVing.” Let me explain. The acronym MAP stands for minimizing, arguing and problem-solving.

When being approached by another person, communication is more likely to breakdown if we inadvertently minimize, argue or problem-solve. Each of these responses exists on a spectrum. Minimizing can be as subtle as not making eye contact to something more significant, such as responding to someone with a statement like, “Why do you think this is such a big deal?” Or, “Really I don’t have time.”

By definition, arguing is an exchange or expression of diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way. Clearly this type of response will hinder effective communication. Arguing can also sound like this: “If you wouldn’t leave your clothes on the floor, I wouldn’t have to get mad and the evening wouldn’t be ruined.” In this case, arguing can be described as “tit for tat” or the effort to cite evidence in support of your idea, action or theory.

Problem-solving can seem like trying to genuinely be helpful but often it will disconnect the lines of communication. People often will note “I didn’t ask them to fix it; I just wanted them to listen.”

Whereas MAPing is not the answer, SAVing is the more effective approach to communication. Ultimately, each of us has a need to be seen, heard and valued. Meeting this need is the way to enriching communication. Seeing the other person when you are approached includes making eye contact and even shifting your physical orientation toward the person — in other words, turning and looking at the person. Attending to the person is another name for listening. This response can include acknowledging with a nod or expressing having heard what is said by paraphrasing or restating. Valuing is sending the message that the person matters to you, and that what is being said is important because you care about them. Valuing does not mean you are in agreement; it means you are willing to honor and respect the person’s thoughts and feelings.

Sharon Paprocki MAC, LPC, NBCC

Sharon Paprocki MAC, LPC, NBCC, is the director of CCM Counseling & Wellness. Her passion is to provide people an option for their healing that includes talk therapy along with additional interventions that focus on mind, spirit, and body wholeness and vitality. She truly believes that this holistic combination allows her clients to explore and engage all their strengths while healing, changing and growing. She has additional training in body-centered approaches to healing, mindfulness processing and spiritual exploration therapies that clients can opt to investigate during their sessions. As director of CCM, she has brought on staff Reiki, reflexology and massage practitioners who can give clients the opportunity to support themselves and embrace their emerging life of wholeness.

“I believe your hurts can be healed and new insights can light your path to the future you desire. I look forward to meeting you.”

For an appointment, call 920-498-3383 or visit

Subscribe Today
Community Partners Directory
Find a Complimentary Copy
Community Calendar