One of the most frustrating aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is how incredibly difficult it can be to effectively communicate with someone who has it. We often react to our own buttons being pushed or phrase our comments in ways that seem to exacerbate the problem, making communication even more difficult.
Sometimes it feels as if all options have been exhausted. You’ve tried holding your ground, giving in, arguing facts, or even avoidance, but nothing seems to change. As much as you may have the best intentions and be putting great effort into resolving conflicts with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder, without some guidance it can be hard to know how you can approach conversations in a way that doesn’t escalate emotions or snowball into further conflicts.
Whether you are dating someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, related to someone with BPD, friends with someone who has the disorder, or a co-worker, there are things you can do to improve your communications. In BPD therapy, mental health professionals teach some simple and effective communication skills that can go a long way toward reducing the severity and frequency of high-conflict conversations. All that’s needed is a willingness to learn and practice.
Here are just a few ways to better communication with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder:
Many people with Borderline Personality Disorder were raised in homes with an invalidating environment in which their feelings, desires, and concerns were frequently dismissed as being wrong or unmerited. People with BPD can seem irrational. They often overreact to perceived slights and misinterpret other people’s intentions.
It’s easy to respond to them at times with phrases such as, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t know how you can feel that way when I was just asking you a simple question.” Statements like this may seem like a rational response to an irrational reaction on the part of the person with BPD, but what they do is effectively discount the person’s feelings and further escalate their emotions.
Validation can make a world of difference. Replace the above response with something such as, “Let me understand. When I asked you about work, it made you feel as if I think you are doing poorly at your job? I can see how that would upset you.” By simply acknowledging how the person with BPD feels, we do not condone bad behavior or rage, but we do demonstrate that we are listening and not judging their emotions.
Other Tips for Better Communication with Someone with BPD
When someone with Borderline Personality Disorder feels heard, understood, and validated, they are much more likely to engage in problem solving. Here are some other things you can do to improve communication with your loved one with BPD:
- Listen. Provide your full attention when your loved one is talking. Ask questions and repeat back what they’ve said to show that you heard them. Keep distractions to a minimum and set aside time devoted to talking.
- Be patient. Don’t get frustrated. Understand that communication may be difficult for your loved one with BPD and it may take them some time to feel comfortable communicating with you.
- Think before you speak. Instead of responding immediately to what your loved one has said, take some time to think about your response. This may allow you to find a better way to respond that furthers your communication instead of stifling it.
Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment
Borderline Personality Disorder has a profound ripple effect, and all of the friends and family around the person who suffers from BPD will also suffer the adverse effects of the associated damaging behaviors. As well, many times the root causes of BPD can be traced back to an invalidating home environment or physical and psychological abuse. For these reasons, family members and loved ones are strongly encouraged to participate in the recovery process and be a part of BPD treatment.