Building Bridges

Issue # 34 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

The Benefit Of Learning More About Communicating

I'll always remember a couple who said, "We have no problem communicating. We say exactly what's on our minds!" Unfortunately what they did say often did more damage than it did good, and they fought constantly. How a couple communicates has a lot to do with their effectiveness in dealing with the issues at hand, and shapes how they feel about each other in the process and afterwards.

Some people say, "Why do I have to learn how to communicate more effectively with my partner, my children, or my employees at work? I should just be able to say what I think or feel!" It is essential to understand that it's not that you have to learn how to communicate more effectively. Doing so simply improves the possibility that you will achieve the results you are striving for, regardless of whether you want to see your partner make some changes or you simply want to have rapport between you.

Recently I received an email from a reader that said in part,

... when I try to talk to him he usually gets mad at me because he "doesn't want to talk about it". When we first were getting to know each other he told me everything, now he'll hardly talk about anything. He doesn't like to discuss "feelings" and anything that is bothering him or making him unhappy.

It seems he takes his unhappiness out on me. He'll be very impatient and cross with me and want to go to his friend's house for awhile. I don't understand why his friend can cheer him up and he can talk to his friend about things but he can do neither with me. He just gets very angry at me for asking him anything about why he's depressed. Sometimes he'll just completely ignore me for a day or two after I've tried to talk to him. He also sort of picks on me and says things that I feel are to intentionally hurt me, am I being too sensitive, I don't know.

I don't want to blow this relationship because he is very good in many other ways. What am I doing wrong?
Should I just shut-up and not to try to talk to him about his problems?

My answer is absolutely not! Partners who can't resolve their problems usually don't stay together very long. Strong communication skills help couples get through these situations together. By being able to communicate intelligently, you have a gift and a tool that will serve you well in many circumstances. A little thoughtfulness, diplomacy, and tact does not make you manipulative, but rather better at expressing yourself so people can not only hear you, but actually listen to what you have to say without being offended or becoming defensive.

The idea is not to learn new techniques but rather to change your perspectives and approaches to create more receptivity to what you have to say to each other. It is not as important to know the right words or the correct phrases to use as it is to have a good underlying attitude that is expressed.

Your ability to communicate well improves the odds that you will be successful in your endeavor to have a satisfying, long-term relationship. You can improve the possibility that you will be listened to and understood. It's not just a matter of speaking your mind that makes you a good communicator. A little finesse can make all of the difference between just getting your point across and actually getting the results that you desire.

Now, in some cases, as in the above scenario, you may make little to no progress at getting your partner to communicate, which leaves you between a rock and a hard place. That person may not be, ultimately, the one you need to be in a relationship with. That's a choice only you can make. Since it's often not so extreme as the above couple, and more complicated than just one shut down person, however, for the average couple I usually start them off with worrying less about changing their partner and instead looking at their own part of the equation.

How You Communicate Does Make A Difference!
Many people avoid taking responsibility for their attempts at communication, and disregard the role they play in the actions, attitudes, and behaviors of those around them. For example, some teachers might blame society, parents, and the students themselves for their lack of attentiveness and interest. While these explanations may hold true for some, a great teacher will be able to reach the majority of students by being captivating and entertaining. They will be able to relate the information in a concise way that also makes it meaningful and memorable through their proficiency in communication.

I've heard many people tell me of partners who are not good at communicating, all the while being unaware of their own limitations and ineffective approaches. Instead of worrying about fixing their partner's supposed inability to communicate, these people were better served by looking at their own strengths and weaknesses for ways to improve.

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

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Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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