By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Why communication is not getting you anywhere.
Ever feel like “We just can communicate?” Ever say that? The old standby in counseling, especially relationship counseling, is to teach people to be better communicators. Usually, the clients are disappointed with the results.
Everyone communicates all the time. If someone gives you the cold shoulder you know what that means, right? The stone wall and the icy silence speak more than words could ever say.
It really is impossible to not communicate. Most of us are pretty good at communicating angry, hurtful messages. It is the happy, helpful messages that get lost between people.
The problem lies in what people mean when they say they can’t communicate.
Most of the time people who say they can’t communicate mean one or more of the following things, sometimes all of them.
The other person does not do what you want them to.
Good communication does not mean the other person will give in and do what you want. Improving your communication skills will not suddenly have you winning all the arguments. What it might do is increase the chances you could have a discussion with the other person and you could find a solution to a problem that works for both of you.
If there are fundamental differences in what you want or believe, better communication is not likely to change one of you. What it will do is to help you understand why the other person thinks and feels the way they do. But after all that understanding you two may still not find a way to agree.
Religious differences are a common example of this. You may think communication about your beliefs will change the other person. Occasionally it does. Most of the time this conversation highlights how we put off these conversations as long as possible and then get disappointed when the other person does not come around to our way of thinking.
They don’t like the message they are receiving.
Lots of communication is sabotaged by having so many negative messages included in the communication no one in their right mind would want to listen to this conversation.
Verbally beating your partner up and then excusing that behavior in the name of “communicating” is guaranteed to result in more problems down the line. Just being Honest is no excuse for deliberately hurting someone else and it is not a communication style that is likely to improve a relationship.
Communication is all about the way in which we send and the other person understands the message. If there is an underlying message of “you are no good” or some other negative evaluation, improving communication will likely lead to a realization that the real problem is not the communication but the feelings behind it.
There are immense differences between Criticism, complaining, asking for change. If what you are hearing about yourself from the other person is hurtful, it is hard to hear much else.
They never hear anything good.
We tell parents that they need to “catch their children doing something right.” The principle applies to adults also.
If the only messages we hear are negative, we tune out. The surest way to reduce communication is to only communicate when there is a negative message. A constant stream of negative messages makes the other person stop trying. There is such a thing as “learned helplessness.” When you begin to think that no matter what you do it will never be good enough you stop trying.
Good communication includes small talk.
Human relationships are built by time together, positive time. It is not in the huge weighty matters that relationships are built but in the small day-to-day conversations where you come to know the other person.
Small talk is not a waste of time. It is one way to make relationships closer and more intimate. We grow fond of others not because they are of the correct political party or have the correct view of the world but because we share common interests.
Take time to talk about the colors and textures of life. The best communication comes when you are able to open yourself up and talk about who you really are as a person, way down inside.
Communicate to the other person that they are important enough for you to want to spend time with them. Try to do this without the distraction of other activities that need to be done. Make sure that your time together is not one where you divide your attention between the other person and the T. V. or a computer.
What do you think? As always comments are welcome. Look for more posts on communication and relationship skills in the near future.
More on communication skills can be found at:
Communication is not what you think
Criticism, complaining, asking for change
How are your relationships, how are your communication skills, and for you are the two related?
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Successful communication is also about hearing what the other person says. Sometimes, when it is necessary to allow a moment of silence so as to allow for reflection on what was said. This brief quiet time also gives time for tactful response rather than emotional outburst.
It is also worth considering that much of our communication is done through body language. We can say one thing but convey through body language something completely different. It is our body language that seems to trump the verbal language; for instance if I say “tell me more” while having my arms crossed in front of me and perhaps even while leaning away from the speaker, I am not offering body language that suggests I am open to receive new information. If however I utter the same 3 words while leaning forward toward the speaker and perhaps have my arms loosely folded across my body or simply lying relaxed in my lap I am suggesting that I am willing to accept what is being said.
Two great points. Thanks for commenting.
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