“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
All communication has two parts: a sender and a receiver. The sender has a message he or she intends to transmit, and she puts it in words which, to her, best reflect what she is thinking. But many things can intervene to prevent the intended message from being received.
If the communication is verbal, tone of voice can influence interpretation. Nonverbal cues also are important. Is the sender’s posture open and friendly, or closed and cold? Is her facial expression friendly or accusatory? All of these factors influence how the same words will be received.
In addition to how the message is sent, many additional factors determine how the message is interpreted by the receiver. All new information we learn is compared with the knowledge we already have. If it confirms what we already know, we will likely receive the new information accurately, though we may pay little attention to it. If it disputes our previous assumptions or interpretation of the situation, we may distort it in our mind so that it is made to fit our world view, or we may dismiss the information as deceptive, misguided, or simply wrong.
If the message is ambiguous, the receiver is especially likely to clarify it for herself in a way which corresponds with her expectations. Our expectations, based on our life experiences, work as blinders or filters that distort what we see so that it fits our preconceived images of the world.
Below are a few tips for resolving misunderstandings and overcoming communication barriers:
1. Use ‘I’-statements
‘You-statements’ put people on the defensive and often lead to a hostile response. On the other hand, ‘I-statements’ have the opposite effect. For example, ‘I feel disappointed that you cancelled at the last minute’ rather than ‘You’ve let me down again’.
2. Clearly express how you feel
Mind-reading and assuming that others know what you want can create all sorts of problems. When you hint rather than make a clear statement, people don’t always get the message. Similarly, when you ramble on rather than state your thoughts clearly, people may not get the message. So, if there is something that you need to say it’s helpful to tell it as it is – don’t hint.
3. Do it now
If there’s an issue you need to raise or a situation that needs to be resolved, try to deal with it as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets, and the more tension builds up. The only exception to this rule is if you feel very angry, and you can’t trust yourself to stay calm when you talk about it. In this situation, it’s often a good idea to have a cooling off period before you raise the issue. Doing this prevents conflict and reduces the likelihood that you’ll say things you’ll regret. Take as long as you need.
4. Ask for clarification
Just as people can’t always read your mind, sometimes it is difficult to interpret what someone else is thinking or feeling. If you’re confused about the message you’re receiving, the best thing to do is check it out with the other person. Asking for clarification helps to prevent misunderstandings.
For example, a friend seems withdrawn and you suspect they are angry with you. You say: ‘You seem quiet – have I done something to upset you?’ or ‘Is everything OK?’ Checking it out with them can help bring the issue to the surface (if there is one), then you can talk about it.
On the other hand, if there is actually nothing wrong, talking about it will ease your concerns.
5. Acknowledge your discomfort in raising an issue
If you feel uncomfortable raising a particular issue, it can be helpful to let the other person know this, for example: ‘Look Sam I feel really awkward about bringing this up but…’ or ‘Alex, I need to talk to you about something and I’m feeling nervous about it. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but if I don’t say anything, I think I’ll continue to feel upset.’
By honestly referring to your discomfort, you lower the temperature, reducing the likelihood that the other person will become hostile or defensive.
6. Be aware of your body language
The way you speak – including the volume and tone of your voice, your physical gestures, and facial expressions, all have an important impact on how your message will be received. If you fold your arms in front of your chest, have a stern expression on your face or speak in an accusing tone, the other person is likely to feel defensive even before they have heard what you have to say.
On the other hand, an open posture, a calm voice, and relaxed body language helps the other person to feel at ease. This allows your message to be delivered in a non-threatening way. Here’s an acronym that might help you remember good body language:
S – face the person Squarely
O – Open Posture, no crossed arms or fidgeting
L – Lean towards the person, not too much but just enough to show interest
E – maintain Eye contact, without staring
R – be Relaxed, don’t fidget and be comfortable
7. Communicate positive feelings
Developing good relationships means being able to express positive feelings at times. We often assume that people know that we like them or appreciate what they do for us, so we don’t tell them. However, people aren’t mind-readers. If we don’t tell them they don’t always know (even if they do know, it’s still nice to hear someone say nice things every now and then!)
Communicating positive feelings towards others lets them know that we value them and helps to strengthen relationships. Warm feelings can be expressed as a whole message. For example: ‘Jo, the other day when I was upset you asked me if I was OK. It was really good to talk to you. I just wanted to say thanks – you’ve been a good friend.’
8. Over to practicing these points
Hope these tips will help all of us to resolve problems and disagreements in a reasonable and helpful way.
Based on the following resources:
While much has been said about women being from Venus and men being from Mars, the reality is that we all live on the same planet Earth and need to interact with each other in different ways on a daily basis.
How can we crack the communication code between men and women? Luckily technology can help us even with that difficult task. Check out the Manslator: the Official Woman Language Translator:
Or you can use a professional Human Gender Translator:
From Gender Translator
Its fun to look at communication differences between men and women but we also have to be careful in avoiding stereotypes. As Simma Lieberman points out, “we are all on a continuum and there are women that have some traits that might be attributed to the male style or there are times when it is necessary to use the male style and the same for men. … Whether its nature or nurture, there may be individuals who possess almost none of the traits attributed to their gender. They may have been teased, harassed or excluded from things because of this, which is why its important to know and understand male and female cultural norms but also recognize that many people don’t fit the mold.
So while we call certain styles male and certain styles female because research has shown that different ways of thinking, processing, perceiving and behaving is present in at least 55% of the male and female population, that leaves up to 45% that may not fit the description.”
“To be womanly is one thing, and one only – it is to be sensitive to man…; to be manly is to be sensitive to woman.”
Women often believe that they are more emotionally sensitive than men. Is that really so?
Celia Lashlie provides an intersting example of woman’s and man’s emotional sensitivity in her book “He’ll be OK: Growing gorgeous boys into good men”:
Monday 17 November 2003
“Saw John in the evening and he was acting really strangely. I went shopping in the afternoon with the girls and I did turn up a bit late so I thought it might be that.
The bar was really crowded and loud so I suggested we go somewhere quieter to talk. He was still very subdued and distracted so I suggested we go somewhere nice to eat. All through the dinner he just didn’t seem himself; he hardly laughed and didn’t seem to be paying attention to me or to what I was saying.
I just knew that something was wrong.
He dropped me back home. I wondered if he was going to come in; he hesitated, but followed. I asked him again if there was something the matter but he just half shook his head and turned the television on.
After about 10 minutes of silence, I said I was going to bed. I put my arms around him and told him that I loved him deeply. He just gave a sigh, and a sad sort of smile…
I started to think that he was going to leave me, and that he had found someone else. I cried myself to sleep…””
Monday 17 November 2003
“New Zealand lost to Wallabies [in rugby]…”
Is the girl in this example emotionally sensitive to the boy? Not 100% as she can’t make any sense out of all the non-verbal clues he is giving her. However she is trying very hard to understand him in her terms and she is trying very hard to communicate with him in her way, using words.
Is the boy in this example emotionally sensitive to the girl? Not 100% as he can’t make any sense of what is going in her mind and fully understand her, but he is trying very hard to please her: he follows all her suggestions, goes out to dinner with her etc. Is he emotionally available? Yes, he is. He keeps communicating with her, but in his own way, using non-verbal communication: sighs, smiles etc.
As Celia Lashlie points out, “Men are highly intuitive, and they appear to use their intuition as a communication tool… The challenge for women is to recognise the communication that is occuring in the silence and trust it, let it be, rather than insisting that everything be openly discussed…”
So, may be, instead of labelling each other non-sensitive, ’emotionally unavailable’ or ’emotionally demanding’, we just need to learn to look at things from different perspectives, respect each others feelings, views and communication styles without losing sense of humour?
I used to be a very ‘wordy’ person – and I’m still a ‘wordy’ person to some extent as I often think and analyse problems while talking about them. Although it might work well for verbalised thinking, it often does not work well when it comes to communication and effective message transmission. As one of my wise friends once pointed out to me, often ‘less is more’ in communication. Last week I came across a brilliant example of that point in Nigel Latta’s book ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Teenagers’. He called it “a bad punctuation in communication” – apparently, a very COMMAn mistake, especially in inter-gender communication:
“Perhaps the worst offender is the humble comma… Whilst it might seem extreme, my advice would be to declare your home a comma-free zone. The comma will only bring trouble, and if you are wise you will have none of it. The rule of thumb is that anything which comes after the comma is nagging. Anything after a comma is simply going on about things.
The full-stop, on the other hand, is your friend. The full-stop can prevent many arguments. It can be used liberally with little fear…
Mothers tend to have far more difficulty with this basic… Commas come naturally to mothers that they are often unable to tell when they are using them. Mothers also take more convincing about the need to limit the use of question marks. Mothers often thing the best follow-up for one question mark is another question mark. Fathers are more full-stop oriented.”
“No, you can’t go to your friends place tonight, and before you ask me why, let me tell you, because if you were to speak a little more nicely to me and your father, and show us just a modicum of common courtesy, then I might have let you go, but you’re the one who decided to be rude, so you’re the one who can stay home, and if you want someone to blame for that, then don’t blame me, because I’m not the one who doesn’t think about anyone else in this family, although you probably don’t even notice the fact that I do lots of things for you that I never get any thanks for, like your washing, and cooking all the meals, and keeping this place clean, and ….”
How to fix that:
“No, you can’t go to your friend’s place tonight.”
Once I came across a series of notes written by American prostitutes. They looked more like case studies, describing individual clients and their ‘business’ requirements (don’t worry – they did not contain any personally identifiable information).
I was surprised to discover that quite a large number of clients described in those notes were married, loved their wives and overall had very happy families. “Why do they go to prostitutes then?” – I wondered. “ Why do they go to prostitutes?” – wondered some of the prostitutes featured in those notes.
I got surprised even more when it turned out that some of those clients did not even want to have a ‘full’ service. Often they wanted just something pretty minor that would turn them on – and then they would go straight home to their wives to get the rest. Even some prostitutes were wondering why anyone on Earth would ever pay for that?!
Why did those men risk losing treasured families by going to prostitutes instead of asking their beloved wives for those pretty minor ‘turn ons’?
I’ve done some further research on that and discovered a few interesting memes (or myths) those men might have had in their minds (consciously or subconsciously).
1. ‘Hot’ vs. ‘Cold’
Men are usually looking for faithful long-term partners as they fear potential infidelity. For that reason some men deliberately avoid ‘hot’ partners or afraid to see their partners as ‘hot’ (partners, who have high libido and are easily satisfied during the sexual act) assuming that ‘hot’ partners are more ‘risky’ and prone to infidelity. I could not find however any evidence proving that view or demonstrating correlation between ‘hotness’ and ‘infidelity’. If a person is fully satisfied (no matter how ‘hot’ this person is) why would he/she look for satisfaction elsewhere?
2. Black and White Swan syndrome
Some men are struggling with seeing ‘romantic’ and ‘sexual’ sides in the same person. They love their beautiful ‘White Swans’/wives with the most romantic love on Earth, but don’t get turned on by them as they do not see them as ‘sexual’ beings. Therefore to satisfy their biological needs these men turn to ‘black’ swans – sexual objects they have no personal connection with (e.g. porno, prostitutes etc.).
Interestingly enough, in the famous ballet ‘Swan Lake’ the roles of Odette (the White Swan) and Odile (the Black Swan) are always danced by the same ballet dancer. 😉 Or, as the Bible says, “It is good for a man to have nothing to do with a woman. But because of the desires of the flesh, let every man have his wife, and every woman her husband. Let the husband give to the wife what is right; and let the wife do the same to the husband. The wife has not power over her body, but the husband; and in the same way the husband has not power over his body, but the wife. Do not keep back from one another what is right, but only for a short time, and by agreement, so that you may give yourselves to prayer, and come together again; so that Satan may not get the better of you through your loss of self-control…”
3. Fear to be misunderstood
Some men fear to be misunderstood. They are scared that their beloved ones will leave them if they get to know all their secret sexual desires. Therefore they are struggling to open up themselves to their partners.
However it is not all gloom and doom. There are some powerful strategies that can ‘replace’ or ‘counteract’ these nasty memes. A few of them are provided below:
Having realistic expectations and focusing on ‘quality’ rather than different measureable attributes (e.g. bigger, longer, faster etc. etc. etc) might help as well. We are not talking about one of the Olympic sports after all and are not on a racing course. There is as much pleasure in the journey as in its destination 😉 .