Communication Is the Key. Why Do You Keep Losing It?

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how communication affects relationships

“Communication is the key to any relationship.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote in some form or fashion. What’s left out is just how hard it can be to effectively communicate with someone.

I’ve noticed in our constantly connected world where someone is always “talking,” it can become very difficult to actually “communicate” one’s feelings in a manner someone else can understand. For example, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that text messaging probably isn’t the best tool for communicating feelings where nuance and understanding are needed.

Why?

There’s something very raw and frightening about telling someone you’re involved with exactly how you feel and why you feel that way. In addition to it being uncomfortable, it’s a risk. You can’t BS your way through a conversation in the same manner you would when someone’s standing directly in front of you.

Texting of any sort provides the opportunity to make slow and measured responses and to mask feelings. It’s widely known that most people communicate with nonverbal cues. This makes it much harder to tell someone that “everything’s completely fine” as they’re watching you shift your weight from side to side as you completely avoid eye contact with them.

What’s most interesting about communication is despite its heralded importance, so many people fail at what is a seemingly basic (albeit difficult) task. But why is it so difficult?

Imagine that communication is a two – way street.

Most people would prefer that street to be an easy, well paved road with reflectors to keep you in line for smooth driving. Unfortunately, there are a series of obstacles which may keep that from happening. Things like trust issues, insecurities, and not feeling “safe” with that person tend to create quagmires where the free flow of “communication traffic” turns into a roadblock.

In a world where it’s far easier to send a text or respond to a Gchat request than to actually pick up the phone and hash out a situation, most people would prefer to simply take the easy way out. Being open with your feelings while someone is staring directly at you (and in some cases it feels as if they’re staring into your soul) is uncomfortable, even if it is the best course of action. And yet, as people, we’re likely to forgo the latter in favor of the former.

In some cases, some people would actually prefer to quit situations entirely before even addressing the problem.

(And now, for a story)

I was having a conversation with my ex-girlfriend about this new guy she was dating (we’re cool like that). In that conversation, she was telling me about a problem they’d had and she wasn’t happy with his method of dealing with the situation. Instead of calling and discussing the situation, he chose the “default” method of texting. It made her upset to the point where she didn’t want to be associated with him anymore.

I told her she needed to explain to HIM texting was not her preferred method of communication. Furthermore, if she wanted him to understand that, SHE would actually have to communicate that to him, otherwise, how else was he going to know? She insisted that “grown people don’t text about problems” and instead of addressing the situation she found it much simpler to just kick homie to the curb and move on with her life.

Funnily enough, I talked her out of that.

(Did I mention we’re cool like that?)

As a person who’s had problems with communication in the past, I empathize with anybody who finds trouble forming words to express how they feel.

(And I’m a writer)

I’ve been known to emotionally shut down and refuse to speak when things get too far out of hand. With that said, I’ve experienced first-hand how text message conversations can quickly spiral out of control. A normal conversation about something minor can easily evolve into a catastrophic occurrence simply because a meaning was inferred where there wasn’t one.

Texting really has the ability to make ordinary conversations extremely stressful. That’s not what’s up.

With that said, what is your preferred method of communication? Would you prefer to have a face-to-face conversation or would you rather text it out? Be honest. Are you working on it?

Does the length of time you’ve been dealing with someone determine how effectively you communicate with that person? If so, how long does it usually take?

RealGoesRight

RealGoesRight is a freelance writer, law graduate and lover of all things Jay-Z and Radiohead. He’s just here to write things which he believes will make a difference in the lives of the people who will read it.

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  • Southerngyrl_

    I am old school. I will text, but only for quick messages. I prefer face-to-face, but will talk on the phone. I am a phone person. I actually don't think I am bad at communicating. I have been involved with people who have issues communicating, yet I prefer to be up front when issues arise.

    I have been in relationships where communication skills were so poor that I felt like there was no way for us to overcome it. Honestly, a good bit of it has to do with how you communicate with your family. There are some people who have superficial communications with their families. They are a good family, but they don't express themselves well. Everything is great until some crisis arises and they have to deal with more than they thought they would.

    Real talk, I really wish I could post this strip up on my wall at work. There are so many people that need to see it.

  • jdoubleu

    I used to shut down all the time. I'd defer to letting a woman talk, yell, or scream and when she stopped long enough for me to speak, she'd only get "ok". By that point, I was likely disengaged or watching the game on mute. But there's some conversations you shouldn't have via text. For one, I'm not trying to do all that typing. 2nd, for something that would take maybe 10 minutes to discuss, it turns into an unnecessary 30+ text thread. Nuance, tone, context, all those things can't be captured in 140-160 characters. I feel like the effectiveness of communication should evolve as the relationship progresses. And if it doesn't, then you're left with 2 choices; fix what's wrong or move on to someone who communicates the way you do.

    When it comes to something major in my relationship, I'd rather just verbally talk about it and clear the air. That way there are no misunderstandings, no assumptions, nothing. Some people aren't terrible at communicating, but they struggle with clarity. I don't think those 2 things are 1 in the same. Just because you know what you mean in your head, you can't/shouldn't assume that your girl/man knows what you mean because he/she "knows" you. Had to learn that 1 the hard way.
    My recent post Reading my father’s eulogy with a different set of eyes

    • MaggK

      +1 for the clarity point!!!

  • Smilez_920

    1) people tend to want their partners rondo things their not willing to do. Like your ex-girlfriend for example. She wanted him to communicate with her more efficiently, but instead of leading by example she choose to ” not clearly communicate her expectations “, just like her bf.

    2) A lot of people say “communication is key” just because it sounds good. Most people just want to talk, automatically be understood ( even about the things they don’t say) and not listen to the other person.

    3) if there’s an issue and we can’t talk gave to give for some reason , the phone is the next best thing. Text messages just aren’t good for a serious conversation. I tend to see men shut down ( maybe to avoid more conflict) when a situation arises and they get hit with ” we need to talk”. So I try to let ” him talk first” or at least I’ll tell him what the issue is and give him the space and trust ( nothing worse than when you trying to tell someone something and they calling you a liar , unjustly) to communicate what he could be feeling. I’m not a screamer but my facily expressions tell it all, so I try to stay calm.

  • Dr. J

    I'm an avid fan of get it how you get it. A lot of people prefer the phone over text, or Skype over Gchat, etc. I say, however you can communicate when you need to communicate is the best way to communicate. People say you misunderstand texts but it just takes the same amount of time to begin to learn how to use that means of communication as it does with talking on the phone or in person. It's just another system that many people are afraid of and are impatient with…

    Personally, I work a lot. And my work is not something i'm willing to sacrifice at this point in my life. I've dated women and then when there was an issue she would call. I would hit the "F U" button and she would call back. Eventually, I text her like, "Please stop calling i'm at work and can't take this call right now." And… she struggled with understanding why I couldn't just take a quick call to hash something out. The reality of the situation is that while her situation may afford her the ability to do that, the best I can offer in my busy work day is that you can email me or text me, but a phone call will not happen in my line of work.

    Now, a lot of people may revert back to, "you should just be single if you don't have the time." I don't think that's fair. I just think everyone has to adapt. If i'm only texting because i'm hiding or using it as a defense mechanism it's one thing but too many times we automatically assume that texting and emailing is a bad thing when it's just another way to communicate with me.

    Lastly, I dated a woman one time who I had to tell straight up that because she only liked to talk on the phone she did herself a disadvantage at getting to know me. I talk to people on gchat for like 7-8 hours a day, and then I can only talk to her on the phone for like 30-45 minutes. I asked her to do the math on if her strategy was helping or hurting.

    • cynicaloptmst81

      "I say, however you can communicate when you need to communicate is the best way to communicate." <<<<<< THIS!

      I JUST said this to someone! Quality time is my primary love language. However, imo, QT is cumulative…and not limited to face-time. Its simply that we are communicating in the best way possible at any given moment to remain connected. I can't have a text rela with someone I don't know at all. But, if we're familiar with each other and its balanced out with face-time and talk time, texting when thats all we can do is exactly what should happen…and its more than sufficient for me.

    • SMilez_920

      IDK. I don’t care how busy or how much of a phone person you aren’t, if you like someone you will make the effort to call them. You don’t have to call them every day for three hours, but if there’s something that needs to be hashed out or something that might translate into a 10 page back and forth email conversation, I think you can take out 30 minutes for a phone call. If you don’t have 30 minutes for a phone call/face time somewhere in the week, when are we ever going to see each other? I don’t ask for a lot I have a lot on my plate, and for the most part texting or emailing are fine, but a phone call should be somewhere on the options list. Heck I don’t even have to see you more than once or twice a week. Other than that whatever works for BOTH OF US BEST will do.

      • MaggK

        But he's working can she call later?!

        • Smilez_920

          That's fine, I said at some point he can pick up the phone and call. I'm not asking him to drop everything he's doing and call. But there's 7 days in the week at some point he can pick up and call her back or tell her when there's a better time to call back.

        • cynicaloptmst81

          Maybe I misinterpreted what's being said but I think Dr. J is just saying that they won't be talking on the phone while he's at work/during the work day…not that that they won't talk on the phone at all.

          …and that's more than reasonable. The call can wait till you're free.

      • Dr. J

        You're reacting right now… I think you're talking from a personal experience and really not knowing the situation I was going through. Either that or reading too deep. Nobody ever said I couldn't talk later, I just said that sometimes you have to use the means you have instead of being stubborn. But like… what you're talking about and what i'm talking about are completely different scenarios. Sounds like he just wasn't that into you…

        • AfterMath

          I'm with you 100% on this. Some of us don't work in an environment where talking on the phone is easy. When I was in school, Sprint got really bad reception in our building, so to talk on the phone I had to stop what I was doing and go outside and talk. That meant I was only going outside for an emergency, and I missed a lot of announcements because I just turned the phone off to save my battery rather than have it searching for a signal that's never gonna come up.
          My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

    • Southerngyrl_

      I agree that someone telling you that you should be single if you are busy, is probably not a fair assessment. It is on her to decide if that is what she is willing to deal with, of course.

      At my previous job I used Sametime/Email for the majority of the day. I can honestly say that email and texts don't always accurately reflect tone. I say that as someone who works in IT and has gotten some butthurt emails from clients who misunderstood what was written, or thought the inflection was different than the one I intended. I have also misunderstood some emails myself.

      Even with all of that IM communication, I still prefer the phone. I type all day at work (I like written proof). I need verbal communication on my off times, and no, I am not having a whole phone conversation with some dude while I am working.

    • bellatrice1

      I agree here. I prefer email especially when I'm dealing with someone who doesn't listen or won't let me get a word in edgewise. I think email is effective, not as a sole means of communication, but it is definitely in my top 3. For serious convos, I would say #1 is face to face, if not face to face, email, then phone. Texting is for brief conversations.
      My recent post Are Men to Blame for High Divorce Rates?

  • AfterMath

    Communication is effed up because how do you openly go to somebody and just say "this is what's wrong with you"? That takes more than courage. I know that a lot of my relationships have gone sour because I didn't feel like voicing my frustrations. I mean, what's the point if I don't think they'll change anything?

    As far as the texting part of it – That's just a new cloud in the same old storm. I mean, some (sometimes me) will say that phone conversations ruin a relationship because its not enough time together, but instead you've got this time semi-together where you talk for 3 hours so one of you feel like you've spent all this time together, but you don't know if its genuine because she coulda been doing her nails in the background. That time together is different. But even that is subject cause its one thing if we're together sitting on the couch and talking and something else if I'm watching the game while we're together, or if you're in the kitchen and we still call it spending time together cause we're at the same address.
    My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • Peter Parker

    Me personally I am a face to face type of brother, but will text also if I am not in the mood to really talk on the phone. I personally am not a phone person, but if I am really interested in a female, we can have convos for days…I just prefer being in the company of that person instead of talking on the phone.
    I have been told by some that I text a little too much which is something I am getting better at. I dated someone for like 5 years who wasn't a phone person, but she was like me and preferred face to face interaction. So as I have been dating, I have to be more conscious that someone women are cool with texting, while others are not…

  • MaggK

    "Between what I think I want to say, what I believe I'm saying, what I say, what you want to hear, what you believe you understand, and what you understood, there are at least nine possibilities for misunderstanding" -Francois Garagnon

    The problem with communication is that some things are so obvious for us that we just don't see why we have to explain it to the person because we think it's supposed to be obvious for everybody… I understand your ex i'm like that too… Working on it!
    I'm not a phone person, and i really am busy, so i do text a lot, send a lot of emails too. But when it comes to things that need to be said face to face (sometimes it seems like all the punctuation marks and smileys won't be enough lol) , i'll ask or accept a meeting (truth is i'm too busy for a relationship -_-'!)

  • cynicaloptmst81

    Really enjoyed the post!

    "With that said, what is your preferred method of communication? Would you prefer to have a face-to-face conversation or would you rather text it out?" – My prefered method of communication is face-time…then, phone time is a close 2nd. Texting is cool for quick convos, touching base, and random chatter. I'd rather say in 10 mins what it took an 1 hr plus to relay via text.

    • cynicaloptmst81

      "Does the length of time you’ve been dealing with someone determine how effectively you communicate with that person? If so, how long does it usually take?" – Either I feel comfy talking to you and I just talk freely from the jump or I don't talk to you at all, lol. That's pretty black and white for me. I don't believe in forced vibing. If we're vibing, its because our natural method of communicating is working for us. If its working, I'll go with it. If its not, we won't get far. I believe in being clear and stating expectations, etc…I'm not down with charging people based on what you failed to communicate or assumed that someone knew. Now, once things are communicated clearly…both parties have said they're clear…I hate repeating conversations, lol. You def get charged for that…

      • MaggK

        "Now, once things are communicated clearly…both parties have said they're clear…I hate repeating conversations, lol. You def get charged for that…" LOLLL you are too funny!

        • cynicaloptmst81

          LOL! Magg, I'm so serious though. I thrive on progress…

          Like how many times are we gonna talk about this? If you weren't clear, why did you allow our first conversation about this to end as if you were clear? When are we gonna just implement the agreed upon solution? If you weren't feeling the solution, why did you agree to it?

          I'm gonna begin to think you rode the short yellow bus to school, lol…

        • MaggK

          *snapping my fingers after every question mark*
          You pretty much said it all, thank you very much!!!

          "I'm gonna begin to think you rode the short yellow bus to school, lol…" LMAO I'm done with you!!!

        • AfterMath

          "Like how many times are we gonna talk about this? If you weren't clear, why did you allow our first conversation about this to end as if you were clear? "

          Maybe I'm misreading this, but this is where I always mess up. Sometimes I just let it end cause I'm tired of talking about it. Like, I know where you stand and you (hopefully) know where I stand. If that's a different place and I'm tired of talking about it, I'm likely to just sat ok to end it and move on. Maybe one day in the future I'll think of a better way to explain it, or a better example that shows my POV. If that comes up, then I'll re-open the conversation.
          My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

        • cynicaloptmst81

          Well, maybe instead of saying Ok to end the conversation, you should say that you really don't know what the solution is, you are unsure about how to communicate your concerns more clearly, and it can be discussed again at a later time after you've had time to think about it more.

          That's clear…and true. :-)

        • AfterMath

          yeah, that works. I'll try to keep that in mind in my next argument, but I'm more used to doing what I said earlier.
          My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • amaris79

    I'm a texter. I appreciate/prefer a phone call but hate forced conversation. If you are not a small talker, texting is fine for me unless it is an important point. I'd rather have it not misconstrued. PLUS, I tend to pay attention to my phone call and since my downtime is limited I kindof have to REALLY like you to stop browsing Netflix/surfing the internet/soaking in my bubble bath/sleeping/texting other people and take your call.
    Oh, and I NEVER, EVER argue over the phone.

  • Mr. SD

    I'd consider myself the ultimate communicator. Technology has blessed us with a kabillion ways to communicate….I say pick one that works for both parties…but do pick one!

  • shetraveler

    I like all forms of communication. I love a quick email or text. I love the idea that he has my email. I like to talk on the phone. I will Gchat my butt off. But I am an admitted gabber mouth so I can go on and on and on. Ironically enough I probably don't get my point across the way I think I do. I notice I take for granted men just understanding me or what I mean when they are black. But other cultures I go thru great pains to make sure that I explain how I feel, what was done, and what my expectations are. I get clarity over text messages or anything written that I may take the worng way. I wish I was the same with all guys but admittedly I am not.

  • LESLIE

    i AM HAVING THSI ISSUE RIGHT NOW MY BF CONSIDERS COMMUNICATING TALKING ABOUT ANYTHING NOT ABOUT FEELINGS OR EMOTIONS SO I HAVE COMPLETELY DISENGAGED FROM CONVERSATION HE SAYS YOUR NOT HAPPY I SAY I CANT TALK TO YOU WHEN I TRY TO EXPLAIN MY FEELINGS I MAY AS WELL BE SPEAKING SPANISH. AS HARD AS I TRY TO EXPLAIN MY FEELINGS HE SEEMS TO BE LOST AS TO WHY I FEEL THE WAY THAT I FEEL WE HAVE GONE TO COUNSELING BUT HE WANTED TO STOP THAT BECAUSE HE DID NOT LIKE WHAT THE COUNSELOR WAS SAYING I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO.

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