Being the flawed human beings we are, it is only natural that our communication skills malfunction every once in a while. Even people in possession of a phenomenal vocabulary have their fair share of communication blunders. It is all part of being human.
With miscommunications happening as often as they do, you would think that we would have learned how to recognize them by now. It seems, however, that we like to assume that our communication skills are flawless. Because of this, we tend to take offense too quickly. We automatically conclude that we have interpreted something the way it was meant, when in fact, that person was trying to say something completely different.
These miscommunications can be dangerous to any relationship. Undiagnosed, they can potentially poison a relationship with hurt feelings and unintended insults. As a result, feelings of anger, sadness, doubt, embarrassment, disgust and frustration are bound to fester until the problem is recognized and addressed.
To avoid disaster, here are five questions you can ask yourself to help recognize a miscommunication before it has the chance to damage your relationship.
(Note: Though I am gearing this article toward marital miscommunications, you will find that these questions can help you spot misunderstandings in any relationship.)
1. Have I assumed anything?
If you find yourself thinking anything like, "It goes without saying … " or "I made it obvious," think again. What might be obvious to you may have been completely overlooked by your spouse.
Ladies, if you expect your husband to catch every hint you throw at him, you are in for a big disappointment. Women's minds work differently than men's. If you want your husband to understand or do something, just tell him. Don't make the poor man have to guess what you want and then get punished when he doesn't guess right.
And men, just because you said it flat out doesn't mean your wife interpreted it the way you wanted her to. She is probably analyzing your statement 50 different ways and taking it in a completely different direction than you intended. Men and women think differently.
2. Did I choose my words carefully?
Words can be slippery things. They can have multiple meanings, definitions and connotations. Make sure what you have said cannot be taken any other way. To ensure this, try explaining in several different ways. Don't limit something you are saying to a single statement.
3. Am I really listening or am I just waiting for my chance to talk?
Lack of listening plays an enormous role in marital miscommunication. You have feelings you want to express and thoughts you want heard, but first, hear your spouse's. Talking through your issues achieves nothing if neither of you are actually listening to one another.
Instead, take turns speaking. Be an active listener and ask your spouse questions. This will help you understand his or her side of the story better and make him or her feel loved, respected and valued. It will also encourage your husband or wife to show you the same kind of respect when it is your turn to speak. With both of you actively listening and seeking to understand one another, you will have a greater chance of unveiling a misunderstanding.
4. Is this uncharacteristic of my spouse?
If you are thinking, "Whoa. That is not like him/her at all," chances are there has been a miscommunication somewhere. Remember, you two know each other better than anyone else. You have been there with each other through ups and downs. You know his or her character. Pay attention to when you feel surprised, shocked or confused by what your spouse is saying or doing. You might be misunderstanding the situation.
5. Have we taken the time to really talk it through?
If you want to recognize a flaw in communication, then communicating is the best way to find it. Really take the time to discuss the misunderstanding. Do not cut it short without coming to a resolution. Your relationship will suffer if you do not show your spouse that you are willing to put in the time to solve a problem.
Dig deeper into the issue until you find its core. It might be buried deeper than you thought. Once you have found the core of the problem, address it. If there are apologies to be made, make them. Put aside your pride and avoid getting defensive. This will only hurt the situation more.
Hopefully you will remember these five questions the next time you try to diagnose a miscommunication. Their answers can help you catch the problem before it has time to escalate into something greater. There is no reason to let a little miscommunication damage your relationship. Recognize the issue, address it and move forward.