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Barriers to Communication

There is nothing more disappointing than finding a dream guy or girl, only to have it spoiled by an inability to communicate. The tragedy is that it might lead you to believe that there is a fundamental flaw in your relationship, when in reality, it may only require a quick analysis of your underlying attitude and a few changes to your communication style. In effect, this problem could be avoided by understanding the barriers to communication and knowing how to eliminate them.

Most of us desire to be in a relationship because of a sense of fulfillment caused by sharing meaningful experiences. As long as we feel valued, we are happier and it's more likely that we will respond in kind. The words that we choose to create that state of mind with our partner are powerful but their meaning is often skewed in the translation. In addition, the interpretation of a conversation can change dramatically, depending upon our mood at that moment. And certain personality styles are prone to perceiving attacks that simply aren't there.

In the beginning of a relationship, we tend to be generous in our perception of what the other person says. It is only after a period of time, punctuated with hostility-laden misunderstandings, that we begin to cut the other person little slack, assuming the worst and interpreting everything said as being negative.

Technically, the communication process consists of four major elements:

  1. Determining and encoding the message - We think about what we want to say and how we want to say it.
  2. Transmitting the message - We say it
  3. Decoding and interpreting the message - The person we're speaking to translates our message into something meaningful to them.
  4. Receiving the feedback- We process the reaction to our message, deciding if it was good, bad or not relevant to what we were wanting.

Barriers to communication can develop innocently, as when either partner simply misinterprets what the other is saying. There may be a perception of criticism, but without real substance. However, there are certain attitudes that will inevitably cause the receiver of the message to feel devalued. Here are some examples:

Making moralistic judgments - these have to do with our interpretation of rightness and wrongness of who our partner is.
Making comparisons- Any time you compare your partner with someone else and your partner comes out underneath, it is unlikely that you will be able to convey your message with any cooperation.
Denial of responsibility- There is something about "denying anything" that will cause your partner to become alienated.
Demanding-  When you attempt to force your partner to "do it your way", you set up an automatic response of defiance.
Blaming- Regardless of who might be right, that doesn't really solve the current problem. Blaming can only create tension.
Threatening- There's a difference between telling someone what the consequences will be of their actions and giving them an ultimatum. Threats become a polluted issue, forcing your partner to make a stand against the threat, which has nothing to do with what you wanted in the first place.
Punishing- Even when your partner "deserves" to be thrown under the bus for something said (and they agree with you), you may end up shooting yourself in your own foot if your partner later decides that the punishment was unjust. You will spend many weeks wondering where that behavior came from. Rehabilitate, rather than punish.

(continued on next page...)

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