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Popular, yet fading!


Communication: the most populous, talked about, preached on, counseled over; essentiality for a successful marriage. Yet its search warrant is constantly been released/written in many of todays’ marriages. It seems to me that the more technologically savvy the world becomes (which in its supposed sense should aid communication), the weaker our communication flow becomes. I once heard of a couple that don’t talk physically but prefer to communicate via chat on their smart phones. How modernly shocking! The connection between communication and relationships could be easily likened to the connection between oxygen and life. Without one, the other dies.. More importantly, the most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

If you ask every 10 persons in a relationship, 8 will claim that they are fantastic communicators (including yours truly!). So then, I wonder why us who consider ourselves good communicators often fail to actually hear each other? It is often due to a mismatch of styles: To someone who prefers to vent, someone who prefers to explain seems patronizing; explainers experience venters as volatile. Others who like to communicate silently are often not even given the attention that they require.

This is why many of us see our conversational counterparts as lecturing, belabouring, talking down to us, or even shaming us (if we are venters and they are explainers) or as invasive, out of control, and overly emotional (if we’re an explainer and they’re a venter), or just ignorant and unfeeling (if they are the quieter).

Facing this kind of mismatch, what do you think the chances are for either person actually listening with an open mind?

My answer is… very low.

It is tempting to say, “zero,” but since it’s not possible (or even desirable) to only be with people who match your communication style, we need to develop the skill to try to listen around our partners’ communication style.

If I would honestly use myself as an example, I want to assume that I fall into the explainer category. I feel the need to trash out issues and in real time. I am of the opinion that minor issues become major ones because they were not dealt with when they were only minor. However, this means that somebody like me would often fall at loggers head with a quiet second half, who would rather prefer to let things slide quietly. Infact, the explainers would feel slighted if she gets no comment after a major outburst or elaborate explanation from a quiet partner.

What then is the way forward with all these different styles?

Listening around our partner’s style of communication, however, can be incredibly effortful.  When someone is either quiet, venting/screaming or explaining/belabouring, it triggers a part of your middle emotional brain called the amygdala, which desperately wants to hijack your attentive listening and instead react reflexively with whatever your hardwired reactions are.  And resisting that amygdala hijack is exhausting.

Okay, I guess I have said enough for one post (especially with the big word). Lets revive our communication skills and make our unions be what they were purposed to be.

Footnote: amygdala hijack is used to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat