Communication Breakdown

It happens to the best of us. Communication is such a fickle thing, and the lines of communication can become blurred every so often, especially when feelings are involved. Even those who think that they are immune to the confusion of conflict can find themselves drawn into a communication breakdown when they least expect it, and chaos ensues.

This happened to a friend on the weekend, and until to be quite honest, it took them by surprise. Even those of us who are better equipped than many others are not immune. A few cutting words from a loved one, hurt feelings, and a defensive retort that left both with regrets. It was a silly argument, over something as simple as a misplaced bottle of soda, the lid off the juice, or newspapers not picked up. But to them, it represented something much deeper that had been simmering away for a couple of weeks until the frustration reached breaking point.

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There was intense frustration at having to search for something when it is not where it was expected to be. Worse still when one person shifted it and the other didn’t know the first place to begin searching.

Searching for that particular shirt or needles and thread, lost car keys, a document missing from a drawer, missing covers for the outdoor chairs, all were examples of instances where the house had to be turned upside-down. A moment’s thought or a supportive reply when these things were discussed would have saved a lot of time and frustration. And the answer that was received? “You need to open your eyes and organize yourself better”

This off-hand comment characterized the undercurrent of misunderstanding and lack of compassion that had been running through the relationship for quite some time. One partner did the majority of the household chores and felt aggrieved that their efforts weren’t recognized.

Praise or gratitude was not expected, but simple recognition was. Getting told that “I don’t expect you to tidy the house or cook my dinner every night” was interpreted by my friend as ingratitude, and hurt her even more.

So where to from here? My friend’s partner felt guilty at coming home every night to the perfect household, whereas she felt guilty if it wasn’t perfect. It was never about her trying to make him feel guilty, but it seems it did. And this is where the communication fell down. He misinterpreted my friend’s efforts, and she in turn misinterpreted his response.

Communication, communication, communication. My friend needed to be considered when things were not put back in their place. When two people live together it involves and adjustment in routines, habits, and attitudes. Some consideration of her feelings needed to be taken into account in order for the relationship to move forward.

There was a need to voice frustrations before they get to boiling point. What was needed was a commitment to talking about feelings more often, and in such a way that both partners could do so without judgment or consequence. Open communication was the key to their success, rather than suppressing feelings.

When people feel guilt or stress, it leads them to act funny ways. Often stress and guilt are barriers to communication. The key to overcoming them is to recognize what it is, and have the courage to talk about it. You might be able to do it as a couple, or you might want the help of a friend who can listen to the way you are communicating with each other and offer insights and advice.

They got it sorted out, and kissed and hugged. It wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t feel such love at the same time. But it serves as a good reminder to all. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own emotions that you forget to think of the other person. You also need to entertain the possibility that you are misinterpreting each other. Talking about it is the way to expose the miscommunication and let the healing begin.

A problem shared is a problem halved…


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