Poor communication is the most common complaint (as stated by 68 per cent of couples seeking counselling). Apparently, the average couple talk for only five minutes per day! Yet communication is the most important aspect of a relationship. Once we stop communicating, stop being affectionate and stop making love, we no longer have a relationship. There are many partnerships which lack those three essential ingredients and are still limping along to infinity, with two very unhappy individuals. Communication is not just verbal. It includes every message – feeling, desire and thought – we convey to the other person by way of eye contact, emotion or body language. The secret of communicating effectively is knowing how to avoid the unhappy, harmful interactions.
Poor communicators tend to compete with one another in discussions, to blame each other constantly to boost their egos and to find scapegoats. Everything is a competition for them and they are more interested in being right than having a successful relationship. They perceive themselves to be all-knowing, never giving an inch to anyone, while consistently demanding their own right of way. They are not focused on the relationship they share, only on the arguments, tending to be secretive, self righteous and in denial, so conditions are always tense as they compete for control. It is mainly about who ‘wins’ and who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, without any acknowledgement of the other’s feelings or fears. In their eyes, there is only ever one way of doing or seeing things – their way. No one, or any other method, is ever valid or accepted.
Characteristics of poor communicators are the following:
* Criticism: They usually have a steady flow of criticism, put-downs or blame for their partner. But the trouble with blame is that it keeps us focused on our partners to prevent us seeing, or accepting, our own faults.
* Defensiveness: Neither partner feels cared for or listened to. They are both too busy defending themselves in the abusive onslought and fighting to get their points in.
* Denial of Discussion: They respond to criticism with defensiveness, often denying everything – even discussion, making excuses and accusing their partner of being ‘emotional', ‘stupid', ‘silly’ or ‘mad’.
* Gift of Sanity: Poor communicators are usually the ones who claim to be ‘sane’ and ‘reasonable’ and ‘caring’. They always feel put-upon and the victim.
* Biased Perception: Individual perception is usually biased, distorted or contradictory. There is also likely to be lots of exaggeration and anger instead of compromise.
* Straying from the Isssue: They tend to stray from the main issue and find no solutions, throwing all kinds of complaints and insults at their partner, but without aiming for anything constructive.
* Mind Reading: They tend to ‘mind read’ and/or ‘psychoanalyse’ their partner excessively, as well as name-call and show contempt by mocking, rolling their eyes, being insulting, counter-attacking and interrupting constantly.
* Holding Out: There is a determination by poor communicators not to ‘give in’, only to show they are right, with lots of anger, and, eventually, deadly silence.
* Stonewalling: When the attacks get too much, or when they hear something they do not like, there is likely to be no response. Instead poor communicators withdraw from the situation in a self-righteous way(stonewalling), preventing any kind of discussion or resolution.
ELAINE SIHERA (Ms Cyprah - http://www.myspace.com/elaineone and http://www.elainesihera.co.uk ) is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a CONFIDENCE guru and a consultant for Diversity Management, Personal Empowerment and Relationships. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise and Managing the Diversity Maze, among others (available on http://www.amazon.co.uk as well as her personal website). Also the founder of the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Men and Women of the Year Achievement Awards. She describes herself as, “Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"