3 Harmful Communication Tactics To Drop Today

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* This article applies to work, family, and friends – confrontation is universal people!

In my adult life, I've definitely been the type of person to approach confrontation head on. I don't really understand why people say they try to avoid confrontation. In my experience, it usually ends up hurting them in the long run as they bottle their feelings, which ultimately come out sideways as either passive aggressiveness, exclusionary, or even worse, in forms of self-harm like addiction, disordered eating, or self-mutilation. 

Of course, confrontation can be uncomfortable at times but it doesn't have to be scary. In fact, it can even be healthy when done right. I think a large reason people hate confrontation is because it typically ends up escalating or worsening the relationships. 

*Spoiler alert* if everyone dropped these harmful communication tactics from their repertoire today, conflict really wouldn’t be so scary!

rachel ritlop the confused millennial


Drop these communication tactics STAT:

Assuming feelings. 

You know what they say people who assume…. Haha

But seriously – NEVER assume you know what someone is thinking or feeling! The majority of the time you are probably projecting your reality baggage onto them. Instead, ASK them for clarity.

Don’t: “You're coming at me really angry right now.”

Do: “You seem angry right now, is that right?

Confrontation will escalate when we don't clarify that everyone is on the same page

Shift blame.

If someone is coming to you because they're upset about something, they probably aren’t looking for you to shift blame onto another person or situation. They probably just want to have their feelings validated and discuss what might need to change in order to move forward.

NOTHING is more rejecting than coming to someone and saying you're upset, only for them to say, “well it wasn’t my fault I had *so and so* to deal with* 

Uhh newsflash: It was probably your fault, just maybe not in the way they think it is. You most likely either took on too many responsibilities when you should’ve said “no” or couldn’t set boundaries or you simply didn’t want to and don’t want to admit that. I also call this “making excuses,” as some attempts to grab onto any response other than owning their ish.

Don’t: “Well what do you want me to say? It wasn’t my fault I couldn't be there, I had the to do this other thing”

  Icing on the cake: when the excuse doesn’t make sense

Rebuttal: “But there were literally 6 people available who were willing to do this thing for you in a quarter mile radius so you could be there” 

Do: “Oh wow, I am sorry I did that. I will work on scheduling my time better.”

Response: “Okay, thanks.” — See how easy that is?!?

Confrontation 100% will escalate if the person doesn’t feel validated and heard and is faced with further rejection.

Denial or “playing dumb”

Have you ever tried to talk to someone and they claimed complete amnesia over every. single. thing.  you reference?



Yeah, it’s never fun when someone starts playing dumb or denying any memory of an exchange orrrr even better tries to flip the script and make it seem like you're the crazy one and making everything up. This tactic usually goes hand in hand with another tactic called gaslighting.

Gaslighting has seen a resurgence in mainstream media with Trump in office (total side note, but mad props to whoever set up this redirect to my fabulous ethics professors article in psychology today: alternativefacts.com). Gaslighting is more complex than simply denying or lying (those are two foundational points, though) and I could probably write an entirely different post on just gas lighting… but I digress.

The issue with denying something happened, is that once again, it’s rejecting the person; which adds fuel to the fire rather than solutions to the simmer.

Stop adding fuel to the fire rather than solutions to the simmer with these #communication strategiesClick To Tweet

Don’t: “I have no idea what you are talking about. That never happened. I didn’t do that.”

Do: “I can’t remember what you are talking about exactly, but regardless, I am really sorry. Where can we go from here?”

It's so much easier when both people can acknowledge the problem and move on from there. If someone keeps denying a problem they'll likely feel attacked and the other person is going to feel unheard and nobody feels good.

We are all people. We all say and do things pretty mindlessly at times without realizing how it will impact others, and if something you say or do offends someone, that’s okay.

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But, you do have a responsibility to not cause further harm when something is brought to your attention. Rather than justifying or rationalizing your actions or words, take responsibility and ask how you can move forward.

If your response isn’t adding to the solution, then what’s the point of saying it?Click To Tweet

If your response isn’t adding to the solution, then what’s the point of saying it? Most of the time during conflict, people respond to pump up their bruised ego (because let’s be real, it never feels good to find out you’ve hurt someone) — but here’s the secret, if you can delay the instant gratification of falsely pumping up your ego in the moment, you won’t leave scars and you will move forward (and your ego will recover a whole heck of a lot faster).

On that note, I decided to actually write a follow up post to this one! Click here to read my simple response on how to reply in any situation where negativity arises – seriously it's SO simple and will always add to the solution! Read how to respond to toxic communication here.

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This article was Originally Published on 01/30/18

112 thoughts on “3 Harmful Communication Tactics To Drop Today”

    1. I think we all are! I catch myself doing it sometimes and will immediately call myself out in the conversation when I realized I did it and apologize (both to myself and to the person involved) – you live and ya learn, right?

  1. Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Ummm, yes! These are so huge, especially in marriages. I find myself assuming things sometimes, which can definitely lead to some miscommunication. And blame shifting…ugh. It’s so hard not to sometimes!

    1. Haha totally agree! It’s so important to just recognize when we are doing it, because we all do it, and just call attention to it and shift the communication pattern to move forward with ease!

  2. This is a great post. I too always assume what other people are thinking, instead of just asking. Most times, it’s usually not what I think they were thinking. I have this bad habit of thinking people are always talking about me … it’s just something I need to get over, or ask.

    1. Definitely! I used to have that habit too!! What I started to realize, is that most people are too self absorbed to be talking about me all the time haha and if they are, well that’s their issue haha I’ve really been working on just being present with people and then forgetting about them when I am not with them so I don’t build some story in my head about them not liking me or something

  3. Babies to Bookworms

    I love the point that the response should be part of the solution. That is such a great point!

    1. YASSS!! *applause* I am SO with you! I grew up in a family where gaslighting was a major communication tactic and it took me years to get out of the “fog” of it and realize what was happening and even to trust my own memory again! I think I may do a post on that specifically…

  4. Oh gosh I love this post. I used to avoid confrontation all the time. I finally realized it was not healthy and not to mention I was just a walking ticking time bomb just waiting to go off on someone.

    1. Uhh loveeee that insight Bev!!! I used to be like that too which is why I think this is a topic so close to the heart for me! It took a lot of work to pause and not react and find response that add to the solution and work through things rather than falling into these traps!

  5. Omg gas-lighting boggles my mind! How can you flat out deny something that you know full-well occurred?! I’ve only met a couple people who’ve done this to me (a psycho ex-roommate included) but it was enough to make me see that some people are just delusional.

    1. You are lucky it’s only been a few people!! I grew up in a family where that was a primary communication tool! IT took me years to finally trust my own memories of a situation and trust myself! It’s actually a form of abuse. I think I may do an entire post on just gaslighting actually haha

  6. I am SOOOOOOO bad about assuming the feelings of others! I feel like I always think they feel how I feel (or how I would feel). So bad! I TOTALLY agree with not saying things if your response doesn’t add to the solution.

  7. What a beautiful post! I’m the worst with confrontation. I’ve always feared confrontation it will ruin a relationship. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve started to confront problems in a relationship without (toooo much) fear. I can be very hot headed and get emotional when I confront someone or someone confronts me, so I don’t always handle it appropriately, but these are all great pieces of advice to help me navigate it better!

  8. Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

    I really liked this blog because it’s relatable to my job! I’m terrible about assuming things!

  9. I saw a great post on Instagram that said, “I’d rather be someone’s shot of vodka, than everyone’s cup of tea.” I was like, this is totally spot on the nose. I try to avoid situations that will are confrontational in a more of a preventative way than an avoidance way. You can just tell when someone is trying to bait you, so I just go the opposite direction. I believe the term is “swerve” lol I know that I tend to have a bad/good habit of keeping to myself when I’m frustrated to work through my feelings so I don’t snap at people for things they aren’t responsible for. Sadly some of my coworkers take this as a cue to probe me and try to get me to talk. It’s like, “No I’m upset. I have my headphones on, I’m focusing on my work. I don’t want to talk about what I did this weekend.” LOL Great tips, we can all learn from.

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