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  • Jem Fuller

Functional v Dysfunctional Communication

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, currently being published and due for release in Nov 2021.

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels


"I prefer to look at the different ways of thinking, behaving, communicating, action-taking and so on, in terms of how functional or dysfunctional they are. Rather than there being a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to do something. Saying that there is a right or wrong way for people to think or feel is fraught with potential for moral judgement, shame, chastising, separation, misunderstanding, condemnation and so on. When the purpose is to communicate effectively, I find it better to leave right and wrong aside and go with ‘functional’ or ‘dysfunctional’.

Functional simply meaning it achieves the purpose in a healthy, sustainable and resourceful way. Good for you, good for those around you; net sum impact positive. Communication successful. Dysfunctional meaning that it didn’t achieve the outcome or purpose, it wasn’t necessarily good for you, or those around you; net sum impact negative. Communication unsuccessful.

Within all of the ways we can understand ourselves, some of which I am sharing in this book, it appears there can be functional and dysfunctional versions of the same pattern (and every variant on the spectrum between).

How do we know if the way we communicated was functional or not? Well, quite simply, did you achieve the purpose? If you were wanting someone to feel loved, did it work? If you were wanting someone to understand how you feel, did it work? If you were trying to explain a complex process, did the other person come to understand? And was your method of communication sustainable or was it draining? Could you keep up this approach in similar situations, or does it wear you out?

You will see as we explore human patterns in communication [in the proceeding chapters of the book] that a degree of functionality or dysfunctionality can be observed in all of them. My invitation to you, is to practise a loving self-inquiry as you learn other ways to communicate. Notice what works for you and what doesn’t. When you’ve tried to communicate something and been misunderstood, ask yourself how you could approach the same situation differently next time. Seek to understand how others-not-like-you receive and process information. How can you adapt your delivery?

If the success of the communication itself is important to you, you will extend your range of behavioural flexibility and practise the art of more conscious comms."

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