Communication Challenges and MS: Develop Skills for Better Communication

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Communication is key when interacting in society and with the people involved in various facets of our lives.  When conversing with family (spouses, children, parents, etc.), doctors, employers, friends, etc., it’s important all parties involved make an effort to give and receive information which will result in a clear understanding of one another.  This can be a particularly challenging matter for those living with MS.  Cognition, speech, meds, emotions, etc. can compromise communication.  What we say, how we say it, and how our messages are received can make or break the outcome of a conversation.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to convey a message, yet the other person either doesn’t “hear” or misconstrues your words and intent – all efforts become lost in translation.  If problems with communication are ongoing and become chronic, the damage to our self-esteem and emotional well-being can compromise our lives and relationships as a whole.  There are ways to avoid such issues via various techniques and tools to help you develop better communication skills.  With practice, you can improve the chances of engaging in dialog with successful, healthy results.

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There are two key components vital for successful communication:  SPEAKING and LISTENING.  Listed below are a few pointers from MS and Your Feelings by Allison Shadday, LCSW

 

Tips to improve SPEAKING skills:   

  • Allow proper TIME available for conversation; don’t rush.
  • Check your emotions – avoid touchy topics if emotions are fragile
  • Stay on track – prepare ahead & write down notes of importance
  • Avoid accusatory words & statements – “always” or “never”
  • Use your words to explain & express FEELINGS – don’t assume
  • Eye contact – use it often
  • Remove distractions to increase attention & focus – TV, pets, etc.
  • Choose a comfortable setting to encourage relaxed conversation
  • Avoid insults – be respectful & open minded
  • Check in to confirm listener UNDERSTANDS; offer to clarify if not

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Tips to improve LISTENING skills:

  • Don’t interrupt – yes, this is often a tough one for the MS brain to control
  • Ask questions – clarify – make notes if needed
  • Allow for confusion or inability to respond – request additional time to think
  • Give full attention to the speaker – eye contact & body language
  • Avoid distractions – don’t multitask during conversations
  • Withhold accusations, criticism, assumptions – avoid giving advice

 

Author: Mary

ABOUT MARY ~ I am a "late-blooming" writer from Texas who specializes in creative writing/poetry. I have a background in music, the performing arts, and enjoyed 14 years in sales/marketing & as a special events planner in the private club industry. I am a 1990 graduate from The University of North Texas who started off as a music major (voice), but I wasn't "feeling" it was the right fit. So, I took a break, changed directions & graduated with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. I was an athletic, healthy young woman who also displayed an unfortunate pattern in the men I chose in life (life lessons indeed!). After a brief marriage in the early 1990's, I decided to focus on my career, yet 5 years later I met hubby #2. So, with more maturity & high hopes for success, I married again & became a full time stepmother of two. Along with several rewarding events & fond memories came more challenges, yet I maintained a fun, successful career in the food and beverage industry until 2001. Life...as I knew it changed when I received the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Looking back, I must have been in denial or a state of confused shock as to how dramatically my life would actually change. I attempted to work a few more years after diagnosis, but I was becoming more unpredictable, forgetful, & lost - my job performance was never quite right anymore. You see, this disease affects everyone different. I went through relapses & other issues, but my mobility was intact - then. Unless you REALLY know me, I was then & continue to be labeled an "invisible symptom" case. My MS enjoys messing with my brain, & many other body functions. Anxiety, mood changes, nerve pain, heat & fatigue are debilitating - quite an uphill battle especially when stress is involved. A few more "in denial" years went by & I dealt with this vile invasion of my "internal room-mate". My husband couldn't understand, nor could he handle my ever increasing health issues - he hated every part of it (I don't really blame him for that). But, he avoided being around me when I was suffering - he {didn't sign on for this & I sure didn't look sick}. He was embarrassed as to how my MS affected his lifestyle. So, divorce and other challenges came into play in 2009. Those were painful, rough days. I know now I was suffering from a nervous breakdown. Not yet had I thought to seek the help of a professional therapist to help me cope or to help purge the noisy voices & chaos inside my head, so I began to purge through writing. WRITING saved me! I attempted to compose little songs & dove into playing piano again - I even taught myself a little acoustic guitar & it felt good...soothing. I had found a form of therapy which enabled me to breathe again; a healing tool that didn't require a prescription. This journey to reinvent myself actually seemed plausible via my artsy background & new creative outlets. I've become a student again & the benefits of turning off our "auto pilot switch" & instead focusing on learning new, foreign things & activities is priceless. This "rewiring" of the brain is called Neuroplasticity. Writing (primarily poetry) & music has filled me with a POWERFUL passion, purpose, & endless possibility. This may sound odd, but I'm grateful for the tough times! There's this gift called "resilience" - my MS & other life struggles have gifted this to me. A gift which forced me to find "me" & to focus on the important things in life...to laugh, live selflessly with compassion & passion. Find me on: 🔸Twitter: @pettigrew66, @MSpals, @MSpalsPoets 🔸Facebook: MaryPettigrew48 🔸LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/mary-pettigrew-1b582330 🔸Instagram: 🔸https://www.mspals.org Acknowledgments and Press ~ • Two of my early poems were published in the U.K. in book compilations of poetry: ~The Summer of Sport: Forward Poetry 2012 ~ Poetry Rivals Collection 2013 • Featured in 2 articles in The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's 'Momentum Magazine' ~ 2013 = art therapy & MS ~ 2015 = connecting via social media • My work has been featured/published in various book compilations, blogs, websites, as well as other multimedia platforms including: www.pajamadaze.com www.disabled-world.com www.HealthCentral.com www.MyCounterpane.com www.MS&MeRadio/TBI Network Something On Our Minds (SOOM): funds The Accelerated Cure Project "Twitter Q&A" - A Writers Experience (details forthcoming) • Creator & Co-founder of MSpals: a global organization (2014)

4 thoughts on “Communication Challenges and MS: Develop Skills for Better Communication”

  1. This post was extremely helpful. I only have a few friends that have been diagnosed with MS. I want to try to understand or learn as much as I can to help that relationship as a friend. I have also been learning more about PTSD, since my partner has it. I feel the more I know about these things, a better person I can be for them.

    Like

  2. I have extreme difficulty finding the right words to express myself. This is why I love writing. I can come up with the words that are hard for me to express “on the spot.” This is a very insightful article, thank you for covering this very important topic in our community.

    Liked by 1 person

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