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.
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Is this an example of what not to do. I suspect mom has BPD. How could have responded differentkt.
Context is that we have trash bins in the back and front of the house.
Mom. Is today trash pick up day?
Me. Today is New year’s day. They don’t pick up trash on New year’s day.
Mom. But they took everyone else’s trash.
Me. Are you talking about the back or the front?
Mom. What day is trash day?
Me. Trashman never collects trash on New year’s day. Are you talking about the front or the back? It’s tuesday. They don’t pick up trash on New year’s day.
Mom. You should listen to what I am saying, I said they picked up everyone’s trash but ours. I know today is not the day to pick up trash. They didn’t pick it up last week.
Me. Then did you bring back in the trash cans with trash still in it last week? Is it the back? If it is the back then maybe they did Not pick up the recycle trash.
Mom. Why is it important if it’s the back or the front? They picked up everyone’s trash but ours.
Me. Of course it is important to know if it’s back or the front because the back trash was put out after the trash was picked up.
Mom. Is this a way to kick me out of the house before Benson comes? I don’t care if you want to kick me out because I will not be kicked out. You could have said when I said they did not take the trash, that the back trash was out out after the pick up, instead of asking me about back or front. How can I answer you when you keep saying, they don’t pick up trash on New year’s day.
This article’s title is misleading. Communication is a mutual, two-way, endeavor. A give and take. It requires BOTH parties to listen. The article should be re-titled “How to Placate a BPD.” In the article, it appears only the BPD is allowed to speak, while everyone else has to listen, validate, encourage etc. I’m sure anyone living or dealing with a BPD repeats this process all day long, for as long as the BPD person is in their life. Doing anything short of that gets us screamed at, slapped, dishes thrown, or we’re hurled dramatic threats of suicide. BPDs have already trained us to validate, listen, and let them talk, or rant, without boundary.
What I want to know is HOW do you get a BPD to LISTEN? Sometimes, you actually do need to communicate something important to a BPD, but they don’t want to deal with anything. They silence you, they yell, they interupt, they say ridiculously illogical and off the topic things. They simply WON’T ALLOW YOU TO SPEAK. You can’t finish a sentence. There is no real communication. It’s always the non-BPD folks humoring, catering, listening, validating whatever the BPD says and does. Constantly. When there is a matter that has to addressed, and one must actually speak and explain something to them that they need to be informed of….HOW DO YOU GET THEM TO ACTUALLY LISTEN? Do they have a brain damage that means they cannot process auditory information? Or is it just that they are accostomed to living inside their own fantasies and distorted realities and facing reality (even if its just to momentarily face the person in front of them) makes them feel so uncomfortable that they lose their shit and go into attack mode? Or is it more simply that they are self-centered like a spoiled child…and listening to someone else is just something they don’t feel like doing?
I have noticed they really, really don’t like dealing with reality. I mean, they REFUSE to deal with it. They are happy ignoring it. Their finances could be falling apart all around them, eviction notices piling up, yet they are happy laughing at the tv. Oblivious. If you bring the issue up, they rage until you go silent. Then go back to laughing at the tv. Or their children could be hurt, they are joyfully ignoring it; if its brought to their attention they rage and deny…then once they’ve bullied you into silence on the subject, go back to having a grand time. These people are content in their own fantasy version “realities” of their own imaginations. They only get angry when the world or their loved ones remind them there is an actual reality that exists outside their self-involved heads. Notice, that’s when the meltdowns, tantrums, and abuse occur.
Has anyone else noticed profound lack of listening skills, major inabilities to deal with the real world, including small simple matters, such as another person’s right to speak? To share the floor. If they choose to ignore reality, issues, and problems in their life, thats one thing. But they alsoallow won’t allow their family to deal with reality. They demand everyone play along to their
This teaches us how to placate and vallidate a BPD in conversation. Which is what we already do, all day long, for as long as the BPD is in our life. They’ve trained us to listen without question, to validate (no matter how ridiculous) no matter what they say and do. Whilst we remain silent and unable to speak in turn. Trust me, if we try to speak, they shout, interrupt, yell, scream, throw things, pout, or threaten suicide. We are hostages in this type of “communication.” That’s not real communication. Real communication is a 2 way, shared experience, where both parties are allowed to contribute. Where BOTH parties take a turn listening.
Well, a BPD will NOT listen. HOW do you get them to listen? Especially when an important matter arises which they need to be informed of? How to make them aware of it, when they refuse to listen? This article does not answer the question.
I don’t believe BPDs are capable of listening. Why. I’m not sure. Is is brain damage that prevents them from processing auditory information? Is it their inability to deal with reality? Listening to another person does involve momentarily leaving their preferred natural state of “non-reality”, aka the fantasy version of reality they invented in their heads. I notice whenever they are asked to deal with, or even simply think about something that is happening in the real world…they snap and refuse to do it. Then comes the meltdown, the tantrums, the destruction of property, even the suicide threats. Then, once they’ve successfully silenced you and shoved reality firmly out of their way, they happily go back to watching to tv, or babbling endlessly about trivial matters. They LOVE to talk. They talk A LOT. But they can’t bear to listen or allow others the same right. We have been trained by the BPDs tantrums and abuse, to validate, listen, placate. That’s all we do. HOW DO WE GET THEM TO LISTEN? How do we COMMUNICATE with them (not just indulge and placate them like babies)? It seems they demand us to treat them like babies. But as adults, sometimes they need to be informed of what’s going on in reality, especially if it will effect them or others in a major way. How do we communicate with this type of personality who won’t allow communication? My mother is BPD and after decades of this, I am coming to the conclusion my wiser siblings have arrived at long ago–just don’t try. Avoid her. See her only a few times a year, in limited scenarios. Never be alone with her. Don’t spend time with her. They can placate her for a few minutes a couple of times of year. That’s it. I’ve actually had the realization lately that these types of personalities should NEVER be allowed to be around normal people (there’s no way they can do it without being abusive,controlling, demanding all to live in their unhealthy distorted reality too). They should only live with others of their kind…like narcissists. Or other BPDs. Honestly, if you look at when they act out, its always when you’ve asked them to consider something in reality. They loathe dealing with reality (no matter how small and non threatening the issue) and will detest you too if you remind them a reality exists outside of the fantasy invented in their heads. Even a simple matter like you talking, interrupts their fantasy and offends them. If you don’t play along with their fantasy of reality, they will attack you. You always have to be a hostage.
Whew, so much written that rings true to what I’ve dealt with!
I suppose every situation with a BPD relationship is different, yet extremely similar at the same time.
Listening skills for a person with BPD (like my ex-wife) is very odd from what I saw over 10 years. During any initial conversation on a topic that brought up difficult context to discuss, it was always a huge explosion that relates to exactly everything mentioned above.
The pattern I began to notice was:
—Initially explosion and irrational retort that led to an argument that went in circles
—She would leave in anger. Leave the house, the room, etc.
—Return shortly thereafter with new nasty angles of attack. This would lead to a continuous attack mode of leaving and returning
—After a day or two, silence would follow and then her acceptance to what the discussion was about. Sometimes it would lead to her behavior being corrected for the long term and sometimes short term.
This pattern repeated itself over and over and over again. To the point it became less stressful to deal with.
But ultimately I couldn’t take it anymore and divorced.