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Communication Pitfalls for Codependents - Meeting Topic 8/14/2020 (Friday Night Next Step Meetings)





When we communicate, we can get stuck in verbal communication that is codependent and/or passive aggressive. When we use minimizing avoidant words, or what I call lazy communication, we set ourselves up for feeling less than and dismissed by the other person. The effects of this form of communication is painful to us but luckily we can practice being aware so we recognize this behavior and correct ourselves when we find we are engaging in it. This process is what I call, the fine tuning of our recovery of the little insidious aspects of our codependent behaviors.

I was lovingly “called in” the other day, after introducing myself to a new person. I didn’t realize that I said all of the things I had been doing like: going to school full time, working full time, running recovery groups, etc. only to then say, “but that isn’t any big deal”. They responded with, “Actually, my experience of what you just mentioned was how wonderfully full your life seems. You are doing a large amount of work and all of it is wonderful. I felt that your last statement dismissed all of the things you are doing and accomplishing.” WOW, I was floored and had been completely unaware that I said that and that it came across that way to another person. So. that experience is what led me to a deeper dive in self awareness and paying attention to my communication.

In the book I mentioned in last nights meeting, “Codependency for Dummies”, by Darlene Lancer, I read about these codependent pitfalls and most all of the members who were at the meeting agreed that they too had engaged in them. I wanted to share the list with you that I read as our topic for the meeting, so if it resonates with you that you will be able to utilize it in your recovery too.

In service, Kimberly

  • VICTIM TALK- “You are making me feel ____”, “Why don’’t you ever help around the house?”, “You are giving me a headache.” The speaker isn’t taking responsibility for their own experience in these statements. It would be more effective to describe your experience, feelings, and needs.

  • GENERALIZATION- “You NEVER remember my birthday”, “We ALWAYS do what you want to do.” If you say “ALWAYS” or “NEVER”, you immediately lose your listener who feels judged and attacked. The other person will attack you or come up with at least one time when your statement was untrue. Then you argue about whose memory is correct, rather than the point you are trying to make. It is better to ask for what you want.

  • EMPTY APOLOGIES- Codependents say, “I’m Sorry” a lot. It can be annoying. Sometimes they even apologize for other people’s behavior, which makes no sense to the listener. Because of irrational guilt, they apologize for something that doesn’t matter. For example, if you are five minutes late and spend another five minutes apologizing and excusing it. More often, codependents apologize to take the heat off themselves and end a conversation. They usually aren’t sorry. Sometimes they may not even understand why the person is upset.

When you are not sure whether you owe and apology, you can always say, “I’ll think about what you have said to me.” This makes the other person feel heard and taken seriously, which is more helpful than an empty apology. A true apology is heart felt, with understanding of both your behavior and its impact on someone else
  • JUSTIFICATION- Early in recovery, its exceedingly hard to take responsibility for your feelings and actions, and just say, “You’re right”, or the opposite. “No I don’t see it that way.” Period! Notice if you use language such as, “I was just....” or “I only meant” these along with other explanations and justifications convey guilt and low self-esteem and provide the other person ammunition to continue arguing. Explaining yourself gives someone else the right to judge your motives and what is best for you. Do you really mean to do that?

  • CHANGING THE SUBJECT- Codependents change the subject to avoid confrontations or revealing themselves. It is better to directly respond and set a healthy boundary, stating. “I’d rather not discuss that.” Again, no justification is required, only that you don’t wish to discuss it.

  • BLAMING- Another avoidance tactic is to focus on the other person and blame them for something to avoid taking responsibility for your own actions. Low self-esteem makes it hard for codependents to admit to anything. If you made a mistake, its better to admit it, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow anyone to criticize or punish you for it.

  • WAFFLING - When you give explanations to avoid taking a position or saying yes or no, its annoying to the other person, who generally doesn’t care about your reasons.

  • KICKING THE CAN- Due to the fear of saying no, codependents postpone meetings and conversations. Then when the time arrives they feel more guilty and obliged, and its even harder to say no or to do what they want.

  • SHOULD-ING- Using the word should is a red flag that you are crossing someones boundary and probably giving advice or trying to control.


FROM: Codependency for Dummies, second addition, by Darlene Lancer, MFT

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