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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ouch! It hurt when I pushed you!

Let's talk. . . .

Typically I'm a pretty good communicator when it comes to relationships. I'm not blowing my own horn here, I've had several partners over the years tell me that my communication levels are very high or that they have experienced a level of communication with me they have never had with anyone before. I'm telling you this simply to set the context for the remainder of the article.

When communicating I try to be very deliberate. My word choice is considered ahead of time. Location and timing are important. Anticipating questions and being prepared with answers is part of my process. Preparation for a variety of moods and responses by the other person is contemplated. I try to be very thorough and consider all possibilities and perspectives. I like to be an informed and prepared conversationalist.

All of that is likely the exact reason that when I am ready to have a conversation I need it to happen. Someone telling me they need time to think or aren't prepared to have a conversation at that moment is very, very difficult for me to accept. Often I will find myself pushing for the conversation despite their desire to talk later. I have to consciously be aware that I do that and stop when I realize it is happening.

But I realize all of the above is also a shortcoming of sorts. Taking a look from the opposite perspective, I don’t do so well sometimes. In other words, when the prepared conversationalist approaches me cold and I'm not ready for the conversation, I don't do so well. I either respond badly or end up asking if we can have the conversation later when I am prepared. Something which I know is frustrating for them.

Yet another scenario is the "What's bugging you" situation. As I am preparing to communicate with someone I tend to withdraw slightly. When they notice the withdrawal is usually when there is a problem. The person will often start probing to find out what is happening. Perfectly natural since they are concerned and don't know what is going on. And sometimes the other person won't accept a response of "Let's talk later". They push and probe and being unprepared I often respond with a poor choice of words in a rather blunt manner. This situation is not conducive to productive communication in my opinion and the other person often ends up feeling hurt. Funny since they pushed for the information but sad in the overall scheme of things.

What I'm getting at is this; some people can respond to a topic immediately and well. Some people respond to a topic immediately but poorly. And some people like a bit of time to prepare so they can communicate effectively. Although it may be difficult to let a conversation sit for a while, or tempting to respond to someone who is responding badly to you, effective communication is largely about recognizing the communication needs of the other person. If you can do that your conversations will go much better and involve a more intelligent exchange of ideas and opinions.

What other things have you noticed about communication? What communication tools do you use? What do you think leads to communication failure?


  1. I notice that in my relationship, there is communication failure when I do not give an immediate answer. When my partner asks me serious a question, I find that I take a long time to process how I will answer. A long time might be two minutes. Failure sets in because he interprets my careful formulation of a reply to mean that I am ignoring him.

    With questions regarding emotions or feelings, I often weigh how I will mold an answer. This creates frustration with my partner, who immediately responds with a terse, "Now you don't want to talk to me." I become frustrated because I'm in process or formulating an answer. So at this point, I shut down and do not give an answer.

    When I feel pressured to give an immediate response to my partner, I find that my lack of formulating can create an ambiguous response. This can set off a chain reaction of miscommunication.

    What leads to communication failure? I think that frustration and the sense that one or both parties are not being heard can create communication failure.

    What communication tools do I use? I like to use a check-in of feelings during a session of communicating. I like to hear specific words that describe feelings. Relating to the other person, for me, is a good communication tool.

    I also notice that when alcohol and anger are tossed into the mix, there is complete disregard for sensible and accurate communication.

    I had a very difficult evening (today) when I returned home from a four hour meditation program, to find a woman I did not know, walk out of my bedroom. The house smelled of cigarette smoke and alcohol. She looked at me. I looked at her and asked, "What are you doing in my bedroom?" She was drunk and abusive to me. At that moment, all sensible communication was lost for the entire evening.

  2. Kameshwari,
    Thanks for another great comment!

    I have had partners who, like you, took a while to respond in a conversation. Particularly a serious one. Like your partner, I also struggled incredibly and would often feel angry or ignored. Once my partner and I were able to realize our communication problem the solution was very simple, she would say "I'm trying to decide how to respond to that."
    We both understood that when she said that I needed to be quiet so she could think rather than continue the conversation. For us it worked well. She was able to take her time and not have me run away with the conversation while she was being quiet and I was able to be patient knowing we were still communicating.

    I agree with your other points completely.

    As for your evening, wow. Communication at that moment was the least of your problems. She is lucky you didn't think she was a burglar! I'd have to say I don't think you would have gotten much sensible communication from me at that point either. I hope things work out okay for you. It does sound like there may be a communication problem though if you are coming home to unexpected guests in your bed.


  3. Clarification: the woman visitor came out of the bedroom, not our bed. She used the bathroom in our bedroom suite instead of using one of the three other washrooms in the house.

    The visitor's ranting to me has given me fuel to post comments to about six different Poly Paradigm topics. I just need to find time during this North American summer of fun and travel.

  4. Kameshwari,

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I still would have been mildly disturbed were I in your shoes at the time.

    I look forward to your comments. I know what you mean about being busy. I usually write articles in advance during the summer otherwise there would be gaps in activity here!