Communication, Connections, & Relationships:
How to decode the mysteries of misunderstandings in your relationships
Your communication style in relationships is the way you interact with other people. If your style compliments the other person, the communication will probably be successful. If not, you will probably have problems communicating.
Many communication problems aren’t with the words we use, but with the tone and the way we string the words together. Sometimes it’s even body language or lack of it.
Most of us are blissfully unaware of the styles we use to connect with others. When our words don’t strike home we are often surprised and maybe even hurt. When we realize that we are misunderstood, we often say that we “just didn’t connect”. This failure to connect underlies most relationship problems. Without connection, relationships fall flat.
Some of us talk to think and others think to talk. In the first case, talking things out helps us come to conclusions. In the second case, we listen to what is being said and think before we respond. Either way it is difficult for these two people to connect unless they understand what is going on.
The person who thinks to talk often feels flooded with all the chatter and the sheer quantity of words that the person who talks to thinks uses. On the other hand the person who talks to think is often offended at the slow response of the person who thinks to talk. His/her words are often measured and few. Either party might be offended or hurt just because they do not understand their roles in this communication.
Neither way is better. They are just different. You might have already guessed that most women fall into the talk to think category and most men fall into the think to talk category. There are, however, plenty of role reversals with communication styles and it is best to evaluate each person’s style independent of any preconceptions.
My daughters, daughter in law, and I are definitely the talk to think types, and my husband, son, and one son in law are definitely the think to talk type. My other son-in-law, I think might just be the talk to think type. It’s too early to tell about my grandchildren, but suffice it to say that my granddaughters and my grandson use a whole lot of words! As you might imagine communication issues in our household have been among the top issues we have dealt with. Fortunately we are all pretty well educated in communication (sometimes against the will of my children especially my son who once said “I wish you weren’t a therapist!”).
Even though we are all aware of these differences we still experience difficulties from time to time. One of the hardest things for me is when my son doesn’t share his thoughts, dreams, and intentions with me. Well, he says he does, I think he doesn’t. You see, he uses very few words. I have to admit that he may use very few words because I use so many! Either way, for the last few years I have had to learn to patiently wait for him to share. You’d have to ask him how he feels about my communication style (he hasn’t said).
The girls and I are doing better than we did when they were teenagers. I think they still think I say too much and I think I can’t get a word in edgewise with them, but all in all we are doing okay. My two sons-in-law and my daughter in law are fitting in well with the rest of us and we are all learning to communicate and respect each other’s style of communication.
I have discovered that all my children and their spouses have some pretty deep thoughts if I just be quiet long enough for them to say them! Ah, my husband, well he does a wonderful job of listening to me and encouraging the kids to listen to me. In fact, he might just be up for sainthood when it comes to all the listening he does. Sometimes I get frustrated with him for what seems to be lack of feedback to me, but now that I realize that he is just “thinking” so he can figure out how to respond, I don’t take it personally. We are all definitely works in progress, but the important thing is that we keep on learning and growing in our relationships with each other.
- Try to determine which style every family member prefers.
- Identify your own style.
- Observe and record in your journal the styles of each family member and how your style and theirs either helps you connect, or disconnects you from them.
- Talk with your family members about your discoveries. Ask them to work with you as all of you learn to respect the styles of the others.
- Widen your circle to include extended family and then friends and co-workers. Do the steps above to determine their styles and deepen your understanding of them.
- Have compassion for and patience with those who have styles different than your own.
Have fun with this exercise. Not everything has to be work! Learn to laugh at your own shortcomings in communications and encourage humor and tolerance when discussing the shortcomings of others.