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3 Things You Do to Help That Are Actually Causing Harm (+ you don’t even realize it)

Written on July 19th

July 2018

When it comes to communication, there are some obviously unhelpful and unattractive patterns — like being critical, blaming, getting defensive, thinking you know it all, or talking over or interrupting the person who is speaking.

However, there are 3 common communication blunders that many people are less aware of — but that can equally do harm in relationships. We want to be sure you don’t mistakenly fall into these traps.

Couple Talking

This blog is highly relevant for relationships that extend beyond just your romantic partner — ​your ​friends, ​kids, colleagues, you name it!

In this month’s blog, you will get to discover what they are and some alternatives that will make you a communication superstar! The people in your life will be very grateful. 😉

Here are the 3 things you may be doing to help that are actually causing harm…

(1) Relating what the other person said back to yourself

When someone else is sharing about either a joy or challenge in their lives, do you instantly relate it back to your own life and start giving them an example of something you experienced?

You probably do this innocently, wanting to relate or help them feel less alone in their situation. However, in reality, it steals the attention away from the person who was sharing about their lives and brings the attention onto you.

It can be deflating and disconnecting for the other person when you do this.

It can also feel invalidating when you assume you know exactly how they feel because you went through X. You see an obvious connection, but they may not.

Relating to self

You can perhaps do some relating in your own head only if it helps you cultivate empathy for someone — but they key is in your own head. Actually verbalizing your own experience right after they’ve spoken can quickly change the flavor of a conversation and make it about YOU, instead of them (despite your good intentions).

It can also become stressful when someone feels like they need to compete with you for air time, rather than feeling like they have ample space and time to share and simply be heard.

This isn’t to say that you should never share your own related story. In fact, at the right time and in the right way, it can be bonding and comforting. However, timing and tact with this is so essential and oftentimes overlooked.

Wait to share your related story only until after you’ve really taken time to be fully present with their heart, their feelings, and their experience. And choose wisely about whether or not to even share it — it can be a gift to just let them have this moment fully.

Again, don’t just assume you know exactly what someone else is feeling because you’ve gone through something similar. And you don’t necessarily need to tell them about it. Instead, stay engaged with their story, ask curious questions that help you better understand their unique experience, and simply keep a caring focus on whatever they are sharing.

(2) Jumping right into feedback, advice, and solutions

Being a troubleshooter and problem solver is a wonderful thing! However, so often what is actually most helpful is just to be heard. Not everyone shares something with you because they want your advice and take on it. Sometimes, we share things just to feel heard, to process and digest whatever we experienced, and to feel less alone in it.

The truth is, many times, we already have plenty of wisdom inside of us, and it can seem condescending when someone assumes we don’t already know what we should or could do differently.


Rather than diving in with all the ways you or they could fix it, spend more moments just being with them in their experience, feelings, and process.

Plus, it’s much more empowering when you see the person talking as the authority over what is best for them, rather than thinking you have the right solution for them.

Ask them if they’d like to hear your ideas. If they don’t, be okay with that. If they do, offer your advice simply as gentle possibilities, rather than from a know-it-all place. 😃

(3) Trying to cheer them up before you’ve validated where they are

Like the above, being positive and trying to cheer someone up can come with the best of intentions and be helpful in the right moment.

However, if you skip right over what someone is feeling and jump right into being bright and sunny, they are likely to feel alone in whatever they shared. And when we feel alone in a situation, our fear responses and defenses go up, and our hearts are less receptive to support.

If someone is feeling sad about something, and you want to help them make the leap to happiness, the best way to do it is to first BE WITH THEM in their sadness or disappointment (or whatever it is). Then, only after they have felt fully heard, should you even consider helping them shift into a more positive mindset.


It’s transformative when someone goes there with us and acknowledges and empathizes with our feelings.

And know that this does not need to be elaborate. Simply take some moments to be present with someone’s feelings –where they are in that moment. It will relax and calm their nervous system exponentially, allow them to feel less alone, and make it much easier for them to step out of pain and into a lighter place.


As coaches and counselors, if there is one thing we are hopefully good at — it’s deeply listening to people in a way that allows them to feel truly heard, acknowledged, and appreciated.

After spending thousands of hours in intimate conversations with individuals and couples, we can say with confidence that nearly every human on the planet longs for similar things.

Happy Couple

If you can respond to what someone else is saying with these communication superpowers (instead of the above), the people in your life will feel abundantly more connected to you, want to come closer to you, will have an easier time opening up, and will actually have a much easier time hearing you as well.

Ready for your superpowers?

When someone else shares about their lives…

– Wait until they are fully done talking before you jump in with anything.

– Validate whatever they are feeling and see how they make sense (we all make sense, and it’s up to YOU to get into their hearts and step into their shoes to better understand where they are coming from).

– Use prompts like “I can see how you would feel _______________.”

– Actually tell them “that makes sense.” It’s the best to feel like someone gets us.

– Really appreciate them and recognize them for the things they are doing well. Point out their strengths.

– Ask them thoughtful, caring questions to understand better and invite even more of their thoughts and feelings. These are very different from challenging questions you ask to try to get a certain response, such as “don’t you think life would be easier if you would just stop procrastinating?”

– Get excited with them about any good news they share. Really take it in, and be enthusiastic!

Learning how to effectively communicate doesn’t come naturally for most people. However, it is definitely something that can be learned!

When you develop amazing communication skills, every relationship in your life improves exponentially. In fact, if there is one skill worth having in life, communication is right at the top.

Couple Talking

If you would you love to move through conversations MUCH more easily with your beloved (and the other people in your life), we are fully here to help and are specialists when it comes to everything communication-related. We warmly welcome you to sign up for a FREE 20-minute consultation to learn more about our services HERE, to check out our counseling and coaching HERE (available anywhere in the world for both individuals and couples), and to learn more about our signature Thrive in Love retreat HERE (coming up this fall, and registration is open and filling)!

Our voices are all so important. While feeling unheard, dismissed, invalidated, and misunderstood are deeply painful and disconnecting, you are, instead, fully capable of helping people feel abundantly heard, seen, acknowledged, connected, uplifted, encouraged, affirmed, supported, and loved – what a priceless gift you can give!

Wishing you lots of ease-filled communication that opens the pathway between your heart and those around you – allowing even more love and joy to flow from you and to you!

Thanks so much for being on this amazing journey with us! Have a fabulous summer!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret


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