The Importance of Effective Communication When Dealing with a Compulsive Gambler
The importance of how we communicate with others cannot be underestimated. Some of us have not been taught how to share our thoughts and feelings with others in an assertive manner. When dealing with a loved one who is suffering from compulsive gambling, it becomes necessary to learn to speak assertively. A person with a gambling addiction will insist that everything revolves around their needs, whether they realize it or not.
If you are living with a problem gambler and feel lost in the chaos, this information will be an important learning tool for you. Perhaps you never learned that it is OK to ask for what you need and say “NO” when appropriate. You are not alone!
Assertive behavior “allows a person to act in their own interest, defend their own rights without undue anxiety, express their honest feelings comfortably and safely, or exercise their own rights without denying the rights of others.”
The key to communication is learning to use your tone of voice, eye contact, body language, and words carefully. If any of these fail, the listener will have a negative response. This is difficult to do when you are involved in a roller coaster of life with a compulsive gambler. There are so many emotions that feed any communication process towards the negative. Many loved ones become “complacent” because they are tired of the conflict and become passive.
Being assertive means communicating with others in a direct and honest manner without intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings.
Here are examples of the different ways to express yourself.
Passive Asertive Aggressive
Too scared to say what you think Expresses clearly and confidently Expresses with aggression and irritation/anger
Avoids eye contact Maintains eye contact Looks judgmental
Speaks softly or weakly Speaks firmly Speaks loudly (e.g. shouting)
Lower self-esteem Increases self-esteem Lowers other’s self-esteem
Shrinks body (e.g. hunching) Firm but welcoming posture Closed posture (e.g. puffing up body)
Other’s needs are first Considers both their own and others’ needs Own needs come first
Can’t say “NO” to others’ requests or demands Able to say “NO” calmly and directly Says “NO” aggressively and reactively
Pretends to please others Pretends to express needs Pretends to win
Another way to communicate negatively, combining two of these, is passive aggression. Some examples of passive aggression are sarcasm, the silent treatment, excuses, subtle attacks, “ghosting,” and expressing your feelings non-verbally.
If you are wondering how to speak assertively, here are some examples. First, it is important to start any assertion with “I” instead of “YOU.” Making yourself (“I”) the subject of the assertion will disarm the person you are trying to convey your message to, while saying “YOU” will immediately put them on the defensive. It is not easy to learn to speak in “I” tones and requires practice to break the “blame game.” Here are some examples of assertive statements:
“I hear what you’re saying, and (not but) I can’t add that to my plate at this time.”
“We made an agreement that I would handle the finances, and right now, we don’t have extra money for what you want.”
“I need you to not speak to me aggressively.”
This takes practice and breaking some reactive habits! Take a deep breath before saying something, but keep in mind: YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO SAY WHAT YOU NEED AND ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.
Always remember that at any time you need support as a loved one of a compulsive gambler, the 888-ADMIT-IT hotline has resources for you, your children, your finances, and more, depending on your situation. Call or text 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to speak with a Help Line Specialist, knowing that this service is completely confidential, multilingual, and free!