Communication let me down

The importance of how we interact.


“Communication is key” is something I’m sure you’ve all heard over and over again like the broken record of a mid-forties relationship counsellor, but it is one of those eternal truths. The importance of being an effective communicator cannot be stressed enough, both in our general everyday life and more specifically in our relationships. It is only too evident that awkward interactions are a result of people with poor communicative ability, that and generally being too focused on themselves (their thoughts and feelings, how they’re being perceived etc.).


You may have come across a percentage breakdown of a communicated message, sometimes referred to as the 7-38-55 rule. Basically, the words used or spoken constitute only 7% of conveyed message, whereas verbal (38%) and non-verbal (55%) cues play a far larger part in the process. Verbal cues generally refer to vocal elements such as the tone of voice and non-verbal cues are related to the person’s body language e.g. facial expressions, gestures, posture etc. While this is not an exact science, it is important to be aware of just how much is communicated beyond the text – the entire message is a lot more than just words.


Our methods of communication have expanded – not so our ability?

Technological advances have changed the way we communicate with variations of text messaging and email being the primary method nowadays – and as I illustrated previously, it is very easy to see where the shortcomings in this type of communication will arise. With just seeing the words, this relies on a lot interpretation…and if we know anything about interpretations is that they can be wrong (sometimes badly wrong). Also, unlike in face-to-face conversations, one cannot correct in real time nor seek clarity in the moment. These “corrections” are, at best, delayed.


However, some of the main benefits of messaging/email are that it requires less effort, it is less confronting and generally more convenient to send-receive-reply in your own time rather than having to immediately (and seeing the other person’s immediate reaction as well). Still, is this really better communication?


Covid-19 social distancing and isolating measures has seen a reduction in face-to-face communicating, a trend we were already seeing anyway. Such has been our adaption to video calling/conferencing, the saying “I’ll zoom you later” has been removed of all sexual connotations...well, almost. With video calling you can at least see (and hear) the other person, you can pick up some of the verbal and non-verbal cues, but the quality is not always that great. Plus, there is still something about being in the presence of another human being that can’t be replicated electronically.


We need our communication to be of high quality to avoid errors in assumptions and presumptions leading to communication breakdown and tending towards argumentation. I’m generally in favour of more communication than less despite being very selective and parsimonious with my words. Communication leads to greater clarity and understanding, a deeper sense of love and compassion, in some cases, because our thoughts and feelings aren’t as transparent as some people would have you believe.


This transparency, or lack thereof, can lead to situations (especially in relationships) where one party says “you should know how I feel (without me having to tell you)” or that “I know you so well / better than you do…” and they just tell the other person how they are feeling or thinking regardless of what they are feeling or thinking. I’m not saying there aren’t moments where this is correct, where people should be more empathetic to their partners or that their partner sees something in them they don’t see in themselves. What I am saying is that problems can arise from this (as we aren’t always right) and we still should seek clarity by communicating openly and honestly and listening to understand rather than just listening to respond and presuming we know.

Sometimes, try listening more than talking…you might learn something.

When talking in person with someone, you’re more likely to get the “full story” per se. Face-to-face conversations are (for most people) the best way in helping you to articulate your thoughts and feelings. This aids awareness and clarifying potential problems or concerns one has, but is usually more effortful and confronting. Sometimes we don’t necessarily know what the problem is, but by communicating we can peel away the layers and (hopefully) get to the source or truth of the matter.


Try taking a more holistic approach to communication – it’s not just the ability to speak or write, but the ability to listen, understand/comprehend and reflect that back to the other person.


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