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.
A lot of couples struggle to successfully communicate on an issue (content) because they are unaware of the way they communicate (structure). Over time, unresolved hurt from previously escalated communication attempts to keep surfacing and dominating each conversation. This means that the lack of skilful communication structure impedes the resolution on a content level.
You are speaking lots, even while you are not talking…
Un-resourceful ways of listening
- Finishing the other’s sentences
- Lack of supportive non-verbal cues
- Inability to truly listen (=active listening)
Un-resourceful ways of talking
- Talking in monologue
- Different structures of talking
- Recycling old issues
- Using any of the emotional-based strategies
- unsuitable or not enough time
- unsuitable environment
Emotionally based issues affecting communication:
- shutting down
- disrespectful way of talking
- assuming without clarifying
- 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
If you are truly aware and consciously reflecting on your communication, you will have noticed that ‘talking about something’ is never just as simple as it sounds.
Most of us believe that as adults we should be able to communicate, make someone and especially our partner understand what we mean and feel understood by them. What we fail to notice is that in any conversation, and especially with someone that you feel close, there is potential to be hurt based on what we decide to reveal. We are the most vulnerable with the people we share most intimately.
So, what can we do?
What are ways to repair the damage that has happened in a relationship and return to meaningful and successful communication?
First of all, we have to accept that even though we might be highly skilled at certain skills we can always learn and practice something and especially in areas like communication, even though we use it every day.
Second, we need to accept that we might be unaware or unconscious of our shortcomings. Experiencing misunderstanding and challenges, especially in our closest relationships are testimony to the fact that there are skills we need to update which we are still unconscious about.
Third, we need to be willing to learn and understand, have someone show us our blind spot and be humble enough to say: “OK, I might not yet be able to see it, but trust I can learn and practice to improve.”