Have you ever been in love with a person and no matter how hard you tried to explain something to them they never seemed to get it? Maybe you even told them directly that you did or said something because you love them, yet they are hurt and angered by your behavior. We all know love can make you feel crazy, but what is to blame when we do our best for someone and they still get hurt by it? Often times, communication styles are to blame for these confusing and frustrating arguments.
“That’s not what I meant” is an excellent book that covers communication styles and how they affect relationships. Most of us are aware of things like tone, volume, and the words we say; we are also usually aware that saying even a nice thing in the wrong tone can upset someone or be perceived badly, but some arguments can occur because of the way we communicate- not by our words or how we speak them. Communication style means the way in which we communicate our feelings, thoughts, and needs. There are many different ways of communication: verbal, non verbal, direct, indirect, passive and aggressive.
Depending upon how you were raised, your friends, and your beliefs, you develop your communication style. For example: If you were raised in a household with parents who were passive then you may consider being direct or loud very rude. You could naturally become soft spoken, and being polite -in your opinion- would include: talking quietly, not asking or telling directly, waiting your turn to talk, and asking permission. In this example, you have developed a passive and often indirect communication style. When you meet a partner who was raised in a large family where parents were authoritarian and siblings competed for attention, you may find that their communication style is very different. For your partner, talking loudly is normal and acceptable, as it was the only way to be heard in a houseful of other children. Being indirect in a household like this would often cause needs to be overlooked as well, so your partner learned to tell people directly what their needs and concerns were. Your partner is: assertive, loud, direct, and stern, you are; passive, quiet, indirect, and easy going.
Neither of you is right or wrong, yet day to day interactions between the two of you can prove disastrous without knowledge of communication styles. While you focus on how loud and overbearing your partner is and how they are overly pushy and direct, they will focus on how quiet and passive aggressive you are as they wonder why you never speak your mind and tell them what you want. This is only one possible example of contrasting communication styles and how they can cause conflict in a relationship.
Communication styles can cause conflict because one person has an idea of what is acceptable, normal, and polite in conversation and interaction, while another person has a completely opposite interpretation of your behavior. Many times it is not as simple as asking the person what they want, because they often will not even know why they feel the way they do. Being aware of communication styles does not solve the issues of many relationships, but it should allow you to see that perhaps your partner isn’t wrong, rude, or inconsiderate, but they may simply communicate differently than you do. The next time you get upset over something they say or do, you can consider that perhaps your partner is showing you love in their own way. It often helps to imagine that your partner is doing the best they can, even if something they do upsets you, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are trying to make you happy.
A final point to consider is that people want both closeness and independence simultaneously at all times- this is one of the paradoxes of human existence. Very few of us respond well to being told what to do by others, but most of us also seek out love, appreciation, and security from others. If a person was raised in an environment where parents allowed their children a lot of independence then that child will often grow up to appreciate people giving them space as a sign of love and trust; conversely, a child raised in a strict and controlling household may grow up to appreciate others watching over them and might perceive someone giving them space as abandonment or indifference.
If these two children grow up and fall in love with each other there could be huge confusion as to how to show the other love. The first child -from the independent household- sees allowing others space as a sign of love and trust, in order to make their partner happy they will provide them with space and freedom. However, the second person -raised in a strict and close home environment- perceives this space and freedom as coldness and indifference. As these two people try harder to show their love to the other, they push the other farther away. By trying to show their love and affection for the other person, they may actually make them feel unwanted or unloved! No wonder love can drive us crazy sometimes.
Communication differences will exist in most relationships and unfortunately their is no easy fix. Trying to understanding your partner and listening closely to their wants and needs may help, but it may still be difficult at times. The important thing to know is that disagreements and arguments are normal, and may not be anything more than a difference in communication styles. When you find yourself wanting to rip your hair out because your partner just “Isn’t getting it”, then perhaps it is time to take a step back and assume your partner isn’t to blame, but rather, a style clash of communication is at work.
Your partner is most likely not trying to hurt you, but may instead be trying to show you love. Often times our biggest fights in life are from simple misunderstandings; by being aware of this fact we can attempt to remain calm and learn to forgive those we care about. If we assume our partners are trying their best, and are trying to make us feel loved, then we can avoid many of the fights and arguments that cause resentment in relationships. Sometimes reframing an argument into a difference of communication, and not an issue of right or wrong, can allow us to let go of the difference and move forward.