One of the biggest obstacles to recovery is communication as many addicts lack critical skills in connecting and working through issues with other people. Learning how to communicate more effectively is a major point that addicts must focus on in individual and group therapy in order to experience progress.
Communicating with other people directly may be something that an addict has avoided for a long time because it meant opening up and being honest in ways that they were never ready to face. They could have issues like low self-esteem, a habit of dishonesty, feelings of shame and guilt, aggression or passivity that makes it hard for them to communicate well with others. Addicts can work through all of their own personal issues in therapy that will help facilitate communication but they can also learn key skills that will get the process started.
While some addicts may communicate too aggressively and others may be too passive, assertiveness is a balanced middle ground that defines effective communication. Being assertive does not mean being demanding or forcing others to acquiesce to what you want. It means being straightforward, honest and avoiding manipulative tactics that may have been a problem in the past. Assertive people are able to make requests of others, establish healthy boundaries and get their needs met.
Positivity and Self-Esteem
Part of communicating well with others is coming to terms with your own inner voice or critic that may be too negative. It is important to engage in more positive self-talk as much as possible. When you have an addiction you may be dealing with a lot of guilt and shame which cause you to criticize yourself very harshly. Switching to a more positive inner voice and daily affirmations can help you start to relate better to others and prevent issues from arising.
Learn Social Cues
Communication is so much more than just words. If you understand the importance of other aspects of communication such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice then you will have a better understanding of what is truly being said when you speak to others. Sometimes what we say with our words and what we say with our body language can be two completely different things. Nonverbal communication can actually be much more powerful than words because it can communicate true feelings and intent. Being aware of your own body language and tone can help you more effectively communicate as well.
Listening and Supporting Others
Learning communication skills is not all about what you say and asserting your needs. Communicating also involves the give and take of a conversation or a relationship. You need to learn to listen to others and support them as they do the same for you. Good listening skills are an essential part of communicating well and it is something to continually work on improving throughout recovery.
Human beings relate to one another by putting themselves in the other person’s position and empathizing with their situation. Empathy is something that can disappear once a person is dealing with a serious addiction. They may become so accustomed to focusing on their own problems and seeking out ways to continue their substance abuse that they cease to consider other people’s feelings. Learning to be empathetic to others in recovery can help facilitate better communication because it will allow you to try to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings before you respond to them. Group therapy is especially helpful in allowing addicts to practice their empathy skills in a guided environment.