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Therapy-Talk seeks to enhance the resources and experience of individual people through articles about personal development that might inspire you.

Communication skills: Empathy

Communication skills: Assertiveness training

Authenticity lies beyond limiting identifications and roles

How to give or receive constructive feedback

Communication skills: Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important communication skills and consists of listening carefully, trying to grasp the reality of the person who is speaking. This means being able to see the world from their point of view without judgment or giving advice.

It is also necessary to respect the pauses and not to interrupt to tell something similar that has happened to us or to others. Just speak to clarify a point that has been unclear. Finally, we can communicate with our own words that we understand their point of view even if it is different from ours.

The ability to empathise with another can help build trust and it is the basis to resolve any conflicts. It is easier to negotiate and to take into account each person's needs and expectations, if both are willing to understand and respect the other.

Principles to facilitate communication with active listening:

  • Make your interlocutor feel comfortable and demonstrate that you are interested in what they have to say.
  • Do not get distracted, move papers or do any other activity that prevents listening.
  • Try to put yourself in their place, so you see the situation from their point of view.
  • Be patient, and allow them to take time to talk.
  • Control your temper, as an angry person often misinterprets messages.
  • Do not criticise or argue, since it puts the other person on the defensive.
  • When it is your turn to speak, clarify your doubts.
  • This shows you have been listening and encourage trust.


Inma Romero

Communication skills: Assertiveness training

Factors that prevent us from setting boundaries and being assertive:

If we do not act according to our principles and we tend to say “yes” when we want to say “no”, then we might end up loading ourselves with responsibilities that produce stress and undermine our dignity. Furthermore, it causes resentment and damages self-confidence, as there is a tendency to feel used by others.

External factors: Sometimes the responsibilities and expectations of our work and family are difficult to change, but you can learn to negotiate, delegate and organise your time.

Internal factors: The demands we place on ourselves by insecurity and trying to please others due to a lack of self-esteem, often leads us to think that we "have" to do something.

Different styles of verbal communication:

Aggressive: People with an aggressive approach do not allow negotiating because they fear loosing their power and want to impose their views.

Passive: They have developed a pattern in which they are afraid to assert their rights. Therefore, they let others control or manipulate them and subsequently feel humiliated or let down when things do not go as expected, which in turn reinforces their low self-concept.

Assertive: Individuals with an assertive approach have the ability to express their opinions, emotions and boundaries in an appropriate manner. They assert their rights and look after their own needs.

Setting boundaries and being assertive:

Assertiveness is to communicate your rights and needs in an open and honest manner while respecting the dignity and views of others. Moreover, to set boundaries requires the ability to place appropriate limits or conditions on the demands that others make on our time and energy. Therefore, it is necessary to exercise assertiveness and set limits to facilitate a balance between the demands of work and family life on one hand and having leisure time for our own wellbeing on the other.

Sometimes other people may try to manipulate a situation by adopting a tactic of criticising and undermining in an attempt to achieve their aims. Some techniques might help, such as the broken record, which consists of repeating your opinion without explaining or getting entangled in the issue but trying to keep a neutral tone and remaining firm.

Similarly before responding to a request, you can ask for time to think about it. If you want to respond “no”, it will help you to stay calm and present your case with confidence after reflecting on your decision. There are several more assertive techniques that we offer in our coaching and personal development workshops in order to enhance confidence and improve communication skills.

Inma Romero

Authenticity lies beyond limiting identifications and roles

Outgrowing and shedding identities is a very distressing experience, almost like a death sometimes, but also a very crucial part of the ongoing evolution of our sense of self. Within our adopted identities we play roles in interaction with others in the drama we take life to be. For as long as this life gives us the opportunity to develop essential qualities of human potential, and provides the motivation for creating meaning and purpose for ourselves, we settle in that existence.

If however we come to a realisation, gradual or sudden, that we no longer fit the script and the character we have been cast in, we feel obliged to search for a more authentic, truer self. It is a difficult transition we usually follow reluctantly and resentfully but the alternative is no longer tolerable.

In the course of this process of ongoing expansion and multiple identity shedding, we eventually come to another realisation: The paradox that our freedom from each identification leads us towards our original state of Naked Beingness, the only sense of self that is beyond identities, and therefore beyond separation from our authentic self and other people. The support for facilitating and navigating the journey towards freedom and authenticity is one of the main purposes of our Counselling Services.


Nitsa Economidou

How to give or receive constructive feedback

Some people react to feedback defensively, angrily or retaliating with a hurtful comment and at the same time criticising the conduct of the other person by recalling past mistakes. Other people tend to feel insecure and accept any comments, never thinking that a critique could be unfair but instead feeling that they have failed again. These people reproach themselves when they hear negative comments and take all the blame.

Giving feedback is a sensitive situation that tends to generate conflict. In order to be heard and facilitate positive change, we must offer constructive comments. If possible, try to choose the right time and seek privacy. Before the meeting prepare the situation, rehearse what you are going to say and be considerate with your choice of words. It is not about making judgments about their personality or behaviour, but pointing to concrete facts and how they affect you.

Sometimes situations arise unexpectedly, in which case if the other person tries to silence you or becomes personal, try to be calm, assertive and just repeat your feedback. In any case, when it is possible, start with a compliment that is genuine. It is easier to listen to criticism if there is an acknowledgement of positive qualities first. Then express your opinion in a positive, relaxed manner and without making value judgments. Criticism should never be humiliating or a personal critique. The purpose is to seek a solution, without antagonism.

Describe what you want to change, sticking to the facts and how they impact you. For example, if your neighbour is very noisy, do not say: “You're selfish, your music is very loud” (Judgment). Instead you might say: “Perhaps you are not aware that we can hear the music quite loud and it is difficult to rest”.

Suggest different options, rather than insisting on one point of view. For example, search for his/her collaboration: “Do you think?” or “How do you think we can solve this?”. It is about finding a solution, not to put the other person down.

Sometimes conflict is inevitable because nobody likes a critique, but if you are receiving the feedback try to negotiate, stay calm and do not get angry or defensive but listen carefully to what they have to say. Think that they are criticising a specific event, not you as a person.

Reflect about what they said and ask for a few minutes to think about it. Then meditate if there is any grain of truth, so that you can learn to take responsibility for your actions. Finally, decide if the criticism is fair or not, if it is admit it, if it is not discard it. If the criticism is valid, even if it hurts, think about how you could change that behaviour.

Above all do not let them hurt you, shout at you or humiliate you, since without respect you cannot give or receive a critique. Keep in mind that a constructive feedback can help another person to understand how their behaviour affects others. On the other hand, a criticism made without consideration can damage self-esteem.

Constructive feedback

Inma Romero

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