“Communication problems” seems to be the catch-all phrase for every relationship problem, and is often sighted as the main cause of the collapse of many relationships.
I’m the first to admit that we relationship counselors, therapists and coaches are partly responsible for this. Many of us become “experts” with no or very little training in interpersonal psychology, little or no experience with relationships except one or two of our own, and some of us are just too lazy to even bother. Telling someone “work on your communication issues” takes less time and brain effort.
To better understand “communication problems” in a relationship, it’s imperative that we look at some of the definitions of communication.
1. an act or instance of transmitting
2. information transmitted or conveyed
3. a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour .
4. personal rapport
5. a technique for expressing ideas effectively (as in speech)
In a layman’s language, communication simply means the ability to CONNECT effectively and efficiently.
Put that way, communication seems so easy, natural. But why is it a problem in many of our relationships?
We could go technical on this, but I have a much simpler explanation. Human beings are complicated.
Depending on how we were raised and how much personal inner work we’ve done, we each have what is our “normal” way of connecting with other human beings. Much of the time, the majority of us do actually manage to connect with someone; not because we necessarily have good communication skills but because connecting with other human beings is a human need. We need it, we seek it and we do our best to make it work — not connecting effectively or efficiently, but connecting nonetheless.
During this time, many of us feel things are going well with the new boy/girlfriend, the relationship is great, and we “love each other ” very much. Then slowly, we start having “communication problems” (yelling, banging doors, throwing stuff, silent treatment, pretending there is no problem, avoiding anything that might lead to a confrontation — and everything in between). It’s not pretty, effective or efficient.
Most relationship “experts” and “advisers” will tell you that you need to learn communication skills and be a better communicator. And so off you go learning to say “please”, “thank you”, “I love you”, “you look great”, “I appreciate you” etc. You study “listening skills” and learn how to better communicate your wants, needs, feelings, and emotions — and that sort of thing.
Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to be a better communicator or making someone you love “feel good”, it’s all part of being in a healthy loving relationship. But as some of you reading this may be finding out, just being a better communicator is not enough. And some of you have tried everything the “experts” told you to do to improve communication in your relationship, and the other person even acknowledges that the communication between the two of you has improved, BUT… something is still missing?
That’s because saying “please”, “thank you”, “I love you”, “you look great”, “I appreciate you” etc and listening and affirming is not the same thing as CONNECTING effectively and efficiently. It’s “good communication skills” alright, but it is not enough when you are trying to build a long term emotional bond with someone.