How often do we hear the term “You just don’t get it” or “You just don’t understand”? A statement expressed or unexpressed sums up a frustrating verbal communication. The goal in communication between yourself and others is that you want the other person to understand what you are trying to explain. Feeling that you are not understood can lead to frustration, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and helplessness. So communication is essential.
When you have a long term condition, communication is the biggest factor, and good communication becomes a necessity. Your healthcare team in-particular must “understand” you. As a “self-manager” it is in your best interest to learn more about proper communication between yourself and your healthcare provider, knowing how to express feelings in a positive way, cutting back on conflicts.

Expressing Your Feelings:

Having a long term condition brings about many feelings, some of them may not be happy ones. Here are some helpful hints on how to express feelings in a positive and constructive manner. It is helpful to review what is realy bothering you and what you are feeling. Let’s look at an example:

Andrew and James have agreed to go to a sporting event together; when James came to pick up Andrew he was not ready, as he was having some digestive troubles at the time. The following conversation took place.

James: Why do you always spoil my plans? At least you could have called and I could have asked my son to go with me.

Andrew: You just don’t understand. If you had to deal with what I am dealing with, you would not be so quick to criticize. You don’t think of anyone but yourself.

James: Well I see that I should go by myself

That was an example of ineffective communication. Nobody got their conflict resolved, and it left both people angry. Let’s look at a second example, using a different communication approach.

James: When we have made plans, you cancel at the last minute, you are never sure if you can go. It makes me frustrated and angry-I don’t know what to do, make other plans, go without you, or reschedule.

Andrew: When I get flare-ups I need to be by a restroom. I am also confused as to when my flare-ups happen. I am hoping that I can go and don’t call you because I don’t want to disappoint you, and I really want to go.

James: I understand, sounds good to me. I like hanging out, it is just that being caught by surprise that makes me angry.

The last example was using an effective communication technique. Andrew and James both talked about a specific situation and how to go about it, there was partial blame, but it was conveyed in a positive manner to resolve a conflict.

Some general communication guidelines:
1. Always show respect and regard for the other person.
2. Be clear and concise.
3. Test your assumptions verbally by asking for clarification.
4. Be open and honest about your feelings.
5. Accept the feelings of others and try to understand them.
6. Be tactful and courteous.
7. Work at using humor, but know when to be serious.
8. Be careful not to make yourself a victim by not expressing your needs and feelings, and then expecting others to act the way you think they “should” act.
9. Become a good listener.

I and You Messages:

Many of us are uncomfortable expressing feelings. If emotions are high, attempts to express frustration can be laden with “you” messages to feel as he or she is under attack, putting up defensive barriers, and the situation will usually escalate to anger, frustration, and bad feelings. The use of the word “I” however, does not strike out or blame. It is a form of communication that helps express how YOU feel, rather than how the other person makes you feel.

Here is an example:
“You” Message: You are always late? We never get anywhere on time
“I” Message: I get really upset when I’m late. It is important for me to be on time.
“You” Message: There’s no way you can understand how lousy I feel.
“I” Message: I’m not feeling well. I could really use some help today.