The real reason for communication failures is often the lack of awareness of what is really happening. If you understand what level your challenges truly are and what you are communicating about, whether it is content or structure, you are then able to deal with the real issues. This article will look at the issues of content.
- Discussing more than one topic
- Referencing past issues
- Changing the topic
- Assumptions and unspoken expectations
- Consciously hiding important information
- Adding different seemingly similar situations or topics
Stay with one topic!
It is very common to mix and mingle different topics, referencing issues that haven’t fully been dealt with in the past or changing the topic mid-conversation. Let’s face it: Concentrating on one thing is difficult for most of us.
What is helpful is, if you agree on what it is that you are talking about and – assuming you have made sure that your structural situation is supportive – stick with it. If you notice that there is another topic creeping into the conversation make it a topic for another conversation. Set a time and date to discuss this and return to the current affair.
Referencing the past will most likely just fuel unresolved hurt, create more hurt, lead to criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling, which will lead you down the rabbit-hole of John Gottman’s ‘Four Horseman of the Apocalypse’.
If you notice that the topic has changed, find out whether the original one has been dealt with to satisfaction. If not, return to it and finish it. The same applies to adding seemingly similar situations or topics.
Assumptions and unspoken expectations
When noticing disagreement or emotionality creeping up in conversation, there is a high likelihood for assumptions which haven’t been clarified or expectations that are looming but not communicated. Ask yourself: What do you believe about your partner or the issue, which you haven’t yet clarified? What expectations do you have about your partner or the topic that haven’t yet been brought out into the open?
Often, these are actually the underlying problem of the current topic. This is an important distinction to make: The underlying problem will surface in different situations and, if it is a solvable problem which is adequately dealt with and sufficient time is allowed for the change to occur, it will disappear. The current topic is only the example in which it is shown in the present moment.
A secret lives energetically with a couple, whether it has been made consciously aware or not. If you’re consciously hiding important information, that would lead to solving an issue, ask yourself: What is the benefit for me? What am I trying to get?
It might be about keeping the power structure between you and your partner intact or avoiding him or her leaving you. Once you have more insight, it’s up to you to move on.
Relationship researcher John Gottman says that 69% of issues a couple have are unsolvable. So the question becomes not just about “How can we solve our issues?” but “How can we be happy despite our unsolvable issues (differences)?”