Thomas Gordon’s Concept of “Twelve Roadblocks to Effective Communication”

The objective of communication is to obtain a close rapport between interlocutors.
If the goal is reached, it is easier to tackle with the encountered problem. This is the way how Thomas Gordon, the author of the bestseller “Parent Effectiveness Training” (1970, New York), perceives the role of good listening. In order to focus readers’ attention on fundamental mistakes people make, he listed twelve common types of ineffective responses.These are so called “Twelve Roadblocks to Effective Communication” or, playfully, “ The Dirty Dozen”. Gordon claims that they act as communication barriers because they interrupt the process of solving the problem, whereas our verbal support should be limited to directing partner’s thoughts until the partner comes up with the solution. What is more, instead of encouraging, these responses carry a harmful meaning which is often unintentional.On the basis of what kind of hidden message they convey, those twelve roadblocks can be divided into five groups: utterances that communicate intolerance, ones of inadequacies and faults, ones that deny there is a problem, ones solving the problem for the person and the last ones which divert the person from the problem.
The first group consist of responses that tell our interlocutor that we do not accept his or her point of view. Responses like ordering, directing or commanding communicate that your partner’s needs are being ignored.Warning or threatening may cause resentment, anger, resistance and rebellion. Giving advice (“shoulds” and “oughts”), making suggestions, providing solutions produces a situation when the helper thinks he or she is superior to the other person. Additionally, responses involving persuading with logic, arguing, lecturing and moralizing, preaching, telling them their duty assure your partner of their low self-esteem and will bring counter-arguments. Judging, criticizing, disagreeing, blaming and shaming, ridiculing, labeling, name-calling, stereotyping go together.These responses obviously make the partner feel incompetent and inadequate.

In effect, there is no place for effective communication. Nevertheless, replies including Interpreting and analyzing plays the same role. A group of roadblocks that deny there is a problem comprises such responses as reassuring, sympathizing, consoling as well as agreeing, approving and praising. Making your partner feel better, instead of listening, does not have a desired effect in a helping relationship. It simply ends the struggle with the problem, for example ‘You’ve done the right thing’.Next group goes for responses that solve the problem for the partner. At first glance, there is nothing devastating in questioning and probing.
However, one should ask right questions. Questions like ‘Why? ’, ‘Where? ’, ‘Who? ’, ‘When? ’ may occur too deep and messy. Withdrawing, distracting, humoring, changing the subject belong to the last category. Responses, such as , ‘Let’s talk about that some other time’ or ‘That reminds me of…’, diminish the problem and make your partner feel unimportant. Therefore, there is little chance to pursued the problem. It will be postponed and never solved.

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