Warning: Communication Roadblocks Can Be Hazardous to Your Relationships

(from the L.E.T. book by Dr. Thomas Gordon)

Ah yes, those pesky roadblocks! Perhaps you’ve heard of them, perhaps you’ve used them or they’ve been used on you. Well, let me tell ya, they don’t work. Period. Let’s show them first before we get into that.

There are 12 of them. Here they are, with examples:

communication roadblocks relationships listening1. Ordering, Directing, Commanding
• You must do this.
• You cannot do this.
• I expect you to do this.
• Stop it.
• Go apologize to her.

2. Warning, Admonishing, Threatening
• You had better do this, or else . . .
• If you don’t do this, then . . .
• You better not try that.
• I warn you, if you do that . . .

3. Moralizing, Preaching, Imploring
• You should do this.
• You ought to try it.
• It is your responsibility to do this.
• It is your duty to do this.
• I wish you would do this.
• I urge you to do this.

4. Advising, Giving Suggestions or Solutions
• What I think you should do is . . .
• Let me suggest . . .
• It would be best for you if …
• Why not take a different approach?
• The best solution is …

5. Persuading with Logic, Lecturing, Arguing
• Do you realize that …
• The facts are in favor of …
• Let me give you the facts.
• Here is the right way.
• Experience tells us that …

6. Judging, Criticizing, Disagreeing, Blaming
• You are acting foolishly.
• You are not thinking straight.
• You are out of line.
• You didn’t do it right.
• You are wrong.
• That is a stupid thing to say.

7. Praising, Agreeing, Evaluating Positively, Buttering Up
• You usually have very good judgment.
• You are an intelligent person.
• You have so much potential.
• You’ve made quite a bit of progress.
• You have always made it in the past.

8. Name-calling, Ridiculing, Shaming
• You are a sloppy worker.
• You are a fuzzy thinker.
• You’re talking like an engineer.
• You really goofed on this one!

9. Interpreting, Analyzing, Diagnosing
• You’re saying this because you’re angry.
• You are jealous.
• What you really need is …
• You have problems with authority.
• You want to look good.
• You are being a bit paranoid.

10. Reassuring, Sympathizing, Consoling, Supporting
• You’ll feel different tomorrow.
• Things will get better.
• It is always darkest before the dawn.
• Behind every cloud there’s a silver lining.
• Don’t worry so much about it.
• It’s not that bad.

11. Probing, Questioning, Interrogating
• Why did you do that?
• How long have you felt this way?
• What have you done to try to solve it?
• Have you consulted with anyone?
• When did you become aware of this feeling?
• Who has influenced you?

12. Distracting, Diverting, Kidding
• Think about the positive side.
• Try not to think about it until you’re rested.
• Let’s have lunch and forget about it.
• That reminds me of the time when …
• You think you’ve got problems!

Implicit (and sometimes quite explicit) in these 12 categories of listener responses is the desire or intent to change rather than accept the sender. The Roadblocks communicate a desire for (and often pressure for) the helpee to think, feel, or behave differently. These 12 types of responses, then, act as vehicles for communicating unacceptance. And we know that a climate of unacceptance is very unconducive to personal growth, development, and psychological health.

Why? It seems that people don’t problem-solve very effectively when they fear arbitrary power to make them change, or when they feel threatened, judged, put down, or analyzed so they will change. Such a climate produces defensiveness and resistance to change (the person protects Level II safety and security needs); it also inhibits self-expression and self-exploration—both necessary for solving one’s problems.

Listening performs another very important function in helping group members solve their problems—it helps keep the responsibility for problem-solving with the member (who, of course, is the one who “owns the problem”). The 12 Roadblocks, on the other hand, in varying degrees, tend to grab that responsibility away from the owner of the problem and deposit it in the hands of the leader.

Additional Blogs and videos about Communication Roadblocks:

The Roadblocks-a visual model (Pictorial Definition)

Did You Just Roadblock Me? (Blog)

The Unintended Consequences of Helping Others (Blog)

Communication Roadblocks on YouTube (Video)

Learn more about L.E.T.