Many of the difficulties we face, with family members, friends or colleagues are due to miscommunication in one form or the other.
Let us look at an example where a simple sentence can be misconstrued, inducing a quarrel between a couple:
- Jim: Interesting dress you are wearing today
- Lisa: What? You don't like it?
- Jim: No, that's not what I meant but, ...
- Lisa: Oh you're always so critical!
Communication is quite a complex phenomenon. It involves both verbal and non-verbal aspects as well as deep-seated cultural assumptions. Basic communication theories understand communication in terms of a message being sent from sender to receiver, from person A to person B. But communication is not always such an easy process. Both people participate in the process. Person B is not the passive recipient of the message, but actively participates in it. Communication is a kind of co-creation, which is influenced by both parties, and their relationship.
Psychological factors influence the way we communicate.
Imagine you’re at a party, and the person you have just met, doesn’t answer to your question, and leaves. How would you interpret this behaviour? Perhaps the person disliked you or was offended by your words. Or perhaps he/she saw someone else more interesting in the room Or he/she had simply forgotten an important phone. Depending on your state of mind and the relationship with the person, you will interpret this response in various ways.
Personality influences the way we communicate.
Extraverted or introverted people tend to communicate very differently. Using the model of the psychological types from C.G. Jung, people with different types of dispositions tend to think, feel, act, and talk differently.
For example, a person with a thinking disposition will tend to be rational and factual. Someone oriented to feeling will tend to focus more on relationships.
If a feeling-oriented wife comes home from work upset about her day, her thinking-oriented husband might start asking factual questions, trying to “fix the problem.” Instead of feeling supported, she might resent him for giving her advice and complain that’s he’s just not really interested or listening to her.
Knowing that what we are hearing, is not necessarily what was intended and that people have very different styles are some of the first steps to a better communication.
Vanessa Prins is psychologist and coach. You can visit her website prins-goodman.nl