Effective Interpersonal Communication – Part 1 | Understanding Bad Communication Habits

This is a summarized version of the content presented in the Effective Interpersonal Communication course. To dive deeper into this topic, check out the full Effective Interpersonal Communication course.



Communication is a regular part of everyday life. In school, we’re taught how to give speeches and present information. However, the most frequently used form of communication isn’t taught as a curriculum very often. What is it? Interpersonal communication.

Instead of learning interpersonal communication from a textbook, most of us were taught how to communicate through our parents’ own communication habits, whether for good or bad. That means we likely picked up bad communication habits along the way, which tend to show up in emotionally charged conversations.

In emotionally charged conversations, communication is difficult. We feel vulnerable and unsafe, so we go into a defensive mode. Our adrenal glands pump stress hormones into our blood stream causing a fight or flight response. It’s at this point the worst of our bad communication habits come out.

Bad Communication Habits

Common bad communication habits include:

  • Trying to multi-task: Trying to multi-task while communicating, especially around anything of significance, is a bad idea. You communication to the other person that they are not important enough for your full attention, and you don’t navigate the conversation to the best of your abilities.
  • Using the Wrong Medium: Technology is a terrible form of communication for any emotional conversation. If the subject is emotionally charged, call the person or meet up with them face to face, rather than texting them.
  • Inopportune timing: Sometimes addressing something immediately is needed, but oftentimes it is best to give yourself time to process and maybe seek counsel before engaging in the conversation. 
  • Failing to Prepare: When we don’t take the time to prepare for a conversation, we are setting it up for disaster.
  • Not Getting Counsel: God has placed people in our life that have experience and wisdom we can benefit from. Don’t neglect that.
  • Failure to Pray: God offers to come alongside us, helping us see things from His perspective, and empowering us by His Spirit. When we forget to ask Him into our conversation, it hinders us.
  • Poor Body Language: Non-verbal communication is crucial to master. Our tone of voice, facial expression, eye contact, mannerisms, and body posture all communicate something to the other person. Bad body language gets in the way of good communication.
  • Triangulation: This involves going to a third party to vent about someone, rather than talking to the person directly. It is not the same thing as seeking counsel, but rather seeks to avoid going to the person you should be communicating with.
  • Covert Messages & Mind Reading: This involves hinting and expecting the other person to read your mind, instead of clearly communicating your wishes, wants, or desires in a situation.
  • Failure to Give Space: When we don’t give others the space they need, they are not able to engage a conversation in a healthy way. We can also be guilty of not giving ourselves the space we need to show up well.
  • Confusing Understanding and Agreement: Understanding and agreement are two different things. It is possible for people to understand our point of view without agreeing with us.
  • Using Inflammatory Words/Phrases: Using emotionally loaded words typically breaks down communication. (examples: always, never, illogical, waste of time, etc.)
To dive deeper into this topic of Effective Interpersonal Communication, check out the full Effective Interpersonal Communication course.

Two Communication Styles Under Stress

We all tend towards one of two communication styles under stress. We gravitate towards silence or violence. Silence is when we withdraw or avoid conflict. Violence, on the other hand, is when we pursue or go after resolution at all cost, instead of withdrawing or avoiding.

Neither of these responses are helpful, as they both prevent meaningful dialogue. But when we don’t feel respected or valued by the other person, we tend to react defensively with either silence or violence. This is shown in actions such as: withdrawal, stonewalling, withholding, avoidance, escalation, blaming, arrogance, selfishness, exaggeration, tantrums, denial, invalidation, defensiveness, passive-aggressiveness, acting out, ruminating, controlling, demanding, provoking, complaining, belittling, and more.

We then tend to tell ourselves stories to justify our choice of silence or violence, making us feel better about ourselves. These stories typically make the other person out to be the villain, make us out to be the victim, and render us helpless to have responded any differently.

What is the impact of these bad communication habits? How can we avoid getting hooked by them? That is what we’ll look at next time, in part two of Effective Interpersonal Communication.


Cheering you on!

Josh Spurlock, MA, LPC, CST
Founder & Director of MyCounselor.Online


To dive deeper into this topic of Effective Interpersonal Communication, check out the full Effective Interpersonal Communication course.

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