Why Is Communication So Difficult?
When I sit down with couples for the first time I always ask, “Why are you guys here to see me?” The most common answer I get is, “We don’t know how to communicate.” Why do couples label all their problems as communication ones? Is it that simple?
This article is going to go over the Three Fears and all of the barriers to communication. Learning these barriers will help you gain an appreciation for the importance of communication, be able to recognize your reasons for communication failures, recognize how these barriers block communication and help you adapt a new way to communicate.
Everyone has a desire to communicate. We are social creatures. Proper communication and attention is the fuel that feeds your relationship. Without it, your relationship will starve and die. So many couples think the simple, “How was your day?” is enough. Couples become apathetic and go through a routine. Men more than women especially feel like it is a chore.
Tip: Quality Communication>Quantity. It is better to give your partner 15 minutes of undivided attention then two hours on your phone with them at dinner.
“You cannot NOT communicate”
Take a second to think about this. When someone has their arms crossed and is not saying anything with an angry expression on their face they are clearly communicating something. Communication is often hard for us because we accept myths that were told to us from an early age.
5 Common Misconceptions
- Don’t express your thoughts.
- If you ignore problems, they’ll eventually disappear.
- Familiarity breeds contempt.
- What you don’t know won’t hurt you.
- We think alike and that’s why we get along.
We have a fear of speaking up. These fears are what influence us to communicate the way we do.
The Three Fears
1. The Fear of Speaking Authentically
We don’t speak with truth. This is because we want to seem smart. We think we’ll be attacked for having a different opinion. We don’t want to insult others or wound their pride. Our unique opinions are what make us who we are. When you don’t speak honestly, you are not being you.
2. The Fear of Intimacy
The deepest wounds are often the most universal
We believe that our deep and dark secrets are unique. We think that no one else has unique and specific thoughts like our own. We think that there may be something wrong with us if we reveal them.
3. The Fear of Commitment
It isn’t always possible to fulfill a promise. Life is random and things naturally come up. This leads us to risk being criticized or blamed for failing to follow through. As a result, we often say nothing. Have you ever said yes to doing something to later not want to go. Then when they text you, its often easier to just not respond.
Barriers To Communication
Barriers are obstacles to good conversation and interpersonal interaction. They are high-risk responses that impact the relationship in a negative way. These barriers become even more destructive when you are under stress. They can diminish the other person’s self-esteem and trigger the 4 Horsemen.
Each barrier serves as a “feeling blocker” that reduces the likelihood that we will experience true feelings. When barriers are created, communication has little chance of being resolved. They end up serving as diversions from the true problems. There are 10 barriers. I will briefly describe them and give examples.
1. Criticizing/Name-Calling- This is when the person attacks their partner’s character over what they have done. It is often a critical negative evaluation of the other person that involves steroe-typing your partner and thus demeaning who they are
“You brought this on yourself.”
“It is your fault that you got into trouble.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“What a crybaby!”
2. Mindreading- This is when one person role-plays as amateur therapist. They label and mind-read their partner instead of truly listening to them. I tend to fall into this trap a lot.
“I can read you so easily.”
“You’re only doing that because I remind you of your father.”
3. Advising/Moralizing- This one is especially common for men. It is when you try and solve your partner’s problem. It is insulting the other person’s intelligence. Advising implies that you have a lack of belief in the person’s capacity to solve their own problem. This only serves to foster anxiety and arouse resentment by inviting dishonesty.
“You shouldn’t skip class to go to that concert.”
“You better tell them you are sorry for what you did.”
“Advice is something we search for when we already know the answer.”
4. Excessive Questioning- This implies a lack of trust. Often times this barrier will occur with close-ended questions. It dries up conversation and puts the other person in a guilty position before the have had the chance to explain themselves.
“Where did you go?”
“Who were you with?”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?
5. Sandbagging- This is when you pile on one complaint after another. It is used as a tool in defensiveness of being attacked. It is used to distract from the real issue at hand. We tend to get overwhelmed with negative emotions and then we start to remember every little thing that pisses us off about them. Try to talk about one thing at a time.
6. Ordering/Threatening- This barrier comes in a commanding and coercive way. It is an attempt to control the other person’s actions by bringing up negative consequences. A threat is a solution sent with an emphasis on the punishment.
“Do it or else…”
“Stop talking or I’ll leave and won’t come back.”
7. Avoiding Conflict- This is pushing the other person’s problems aside with distraction. We switch to our own problems because we are uncomfortable with the emotions that arise from listening to their issues.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“You’ll work it out. Did you know what happened to me yesterday!”
8. Logical Argument- Us men do this one all the time as well. This involves intellectualizing the problem by just looking at the facts. It is important to sometimes be objective, but communication and conversation with your intimate partner is not one of those times. Logical argument undermines emotions and infuriates the other person.
“Please just read the facts. If you didn’t spend money on that car, we could have put a payment on our house instead.”
9. Black & White Thinking- This is when you or your partner fail to see the shades of grey. Everything is “All or Nothing”. When people communicate like this, they often use ultimatums to receive reassurances from their mate.
“You never clean the dishes!”
“You always interrupt me when I talk to you.”
10. Reassuring- This last barrier is used in an attempt to save the person from the negative feelings being expressed. Like praising evaluatively it seems like a good thing, but in fact hinders the person being reassured. It is saying to the person,”Don’t feel that way.” When you re-assure your partner, you are blocking them from experiencing who they really are.
“Don’t worry. It’s always darkest before dawn.”