Miscommunication: When What You Say Isnít What You Mean In marriage, lines of communication get crossed and a simple conversation quickly turns to an argument. Sound familiar? BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
Understanding what you need will help you communicate more clearly.
“ Acknowledge to one another the impact that miscommunication has on your relationship. Each miscommunication can wound your marriage and build a wall between the two of you.”
Everyone needs some downtime to decompress and rejuvenate. This downtime could involve simple things such as watching TV or time on the computer. Maybe it helps your husband or wife to unwind by posting updates on Facebook, doing research on a backpacking trip, or checking Craigslist for freebies.
What happens when you ask your spouse a simple question while they're busy on the computer or watching TV? In some marriages, itís not a problem. For others, though, the miscommunication that interrupts the downtime can cause a huge fight like it did for Charles and Kari.
Charles and Kari were going to listen to a local band in town that evening. Earlier in the day, Charles was on his computer while Kari sat next to him on the couch reading her favorite magazine. Because it was unclear as to what time the band started that evening, Kari asked Charles, "What time does the band start tonight?" Charles responded tersely, "At five oíclock."
Kari notices his less-than-friendly reply, and was slightly hesitant about asking him what time the event ends, which she really needed to know.
But she went ahead and asked Charles, "What time does it end?"
Now Charles is very much annoyed at yet another question, and he responded angrily, "How should I know?"
Kari responded, "Because youíre on the computer, and it seems that if it states a starting time, it probably states an ending time!"
At this point, Kari is now frustrated and angry because of Charlesí attitude and his response to her very simple questions, that didnít require but a one or two-word answer and a minimum use of his time. He even went so far as to say the information wasnít there, but yet he ultimately and quickly found the ending time that was right in front of him on his computer screen.
Kariís not going to let this go. She firmly yelled at Charles, "You have to stop being so mean when I ask you a simple question. This happens so much, and Iím tired of it! And why did that question make you so angry?"
Charles responded with "because it was a stupid question."
"Are you kidding?" asked Kari.
Hereís an example of a fight that didnít need to happen all because of serious miscommunication.
The definition of "miscommunication" is a "lack of clear and adequate communication." Unfortunately, this definition, though true, doesnít fully represent the weight of repercussions to the relationship when there is miscommunication. So we need to take miscommunication seriously or it has the potential to destroy our relationships.
How was the above example a case of miscommunication? The real reason Charles snapped at Kari was because heís very protective of his downtime due to his crazy work schedule. He simply didnít want to be interrupted and he didnít know how to express that to Kari. In fact, he probably didnít even know himself that that was the problem. In short, Charlesí miscommunication caused Kari to be hurt, angry, and resentful.
Hereís what to do if your relationship experiences miscommunication on a regular basis:
1. Acknowledge the Problem. Acknowledge to one another the impact that miscommunication has on your relationship. Each miscommunication can wound your marriage and build a wall between the two of you.
2. Communicate Your Feelings. Look below the surface of the miscommunication to reveal your feelings about whatís really bothersome to you. That is what should be communicated to your spouse, not a derogatory reaction to your spouseís questions or comments.
3. Make an Agreement. After youíve talked with your spouse and you both agree that something has to change due to the negative impact of miscommunication on your relationship, make an agreement to work on communicating your feelings rather than attacking or defending.
In my practice, communication problems represent the number one reason for marital breakdown and divorce. Everyone wants good communication, but they donít really know what it is or how to achieve it. Simply put, good communication includes talking about your feelings and looking below the surface to whatís really the issue.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com.