Communication Breakdowns and Breakthroughs

CommunicationEveryone is different.  We have different personalities and different ways of processing information.  But one thing is certain: communication is vital to every relationship that we are in.

  • Parent-Child
  • Significant Other
  • Friends/Siblings
  • Co-workers

You name it, our communication skills, or lack thereof, can make or break every one of our relationships.

So, what’s the rub?


    Think about it.  Who do you think about more than anyone else?  Yourself.  If we’re honest and really observe our thoughts, we see that we concentrate on what we are doing or going to do or what we want, etc. way more than we focus on anyone else.  We try to keep everything under our control, to figure everything out, managing tasks and relationships so that they go smoothly.  Then we can cross tasks off our list in methodical order, enjoy harmony and love in our relationships and feel accomplished and loved.  Nothing wrong with that, it’s human nature.  It’s not to say that we don’t care about others, but our own thoughts, feelings and actions have the number one spot in our minds.
  2. In a conflict, we ACT LIKE ADVERSARIES, forgetting that we are on the same team
    It’s like you and I are sitting on either side of a table and we have a delicious pie in the middle.  If things are going smoothly, we expect to share the pie sweetly and generously.  But if we are in a conflict, we start digging into the pie, afraid that we won’t get our fair share.  Instead of serving each other and expecting to be cared for, we loose our trust in the other person and start behaving like adversaries instead of team mates.
    When the other person is talking we make mental notes about points we want to address, what we will say in response to those points and how we can defend and explain ourselves.  This lack of listening skill is what leads us to interrupt the other person, further proving to them that we are not paying attention to what they are trying to express.
    We make assumptions without figuring out why the other person said or did what they said or did.  This is HUGE!  I’ve seen entire relationships crumble because both parties were unwilling to be the one to ask for clarity about what the other person meant.  Instead, in one particular case, they both made assumptions about the other’s lack of communication, they both were wrong and the relationship ended in sadness and heartbreak all around.  Even in the painful wreckage, they were still too proud to reach out to each other.


These are scenarios that I have witnessed myself and are great examples of what can go wrong when trying to communicate.

  • A Parent and a Teenage Child – the teenage child barely communicates with the parent, never wants to do anything with the parent and only speaks to them when spoken to.  The parent complains about the insubordination and poor attitude of the child.The backstory: the child has tried to question the parent in the past by sharing their questions, feelings and point of view and the parent responded by matter-of-factly defending themselves and explaining why they did what they did.  The child was quiet and walked away.We can see why the parent defended and explained themselves, but what really happened?  The child did not get the message that they were valued or that their questions and feelings were cared about or heard.  They felt shut down by the matter-of-fact response of the parent and drew away from communicating all together.
  • Significant Others – this is a personal account from my own relationship.  I was on hold on the phone, my boyfriend walked in and I offered to make him something to eat, a loving act of service.  He told me that he would do it himself.  I offered again, noting my culinary prowess.  He firmly told me that he would do it himself.  I assumed he was rejecting me, that hurt my feelings and I left the room, sulking.  He assumed that I was upset because I didn’t get my way and concluded that I was acting like a baby.What Really Happened: my boyfriend saw that I was on the phone, thought it may be an important call and didn’t want to bother me.  In short, a loving gesture.  If I would have asked for clarification I would’ve seen his good intention and would have appreciated his gesture instead of feeling hurt and rejected.  I may have said something like, “Hey, that didn’t feel good.  What did you mean?” or “What’s going on?”His assumption was incorrect about why I was sulking also.  If he would’ve reached out for clarification, he would’ve understood that it was not that I wanted my way, but I felt rejected by his response.  He may have said something like, “Hey, what’s going on?  It feels like you are just wanting your way.  What’s really going on here?”

    The whole issue could have been avoided without either of us getting hurt or angry.


    Oh, this is not for the faint of heart, it goes against our grain, but is vital for good relationships!  You may be miffed at that person now, but some clarity can change things quickly.  If you are in this relationship, I assume that you love the other person.  If you truly love them, then you have made a commitment to care about them – their feelings, their fears, their opinions, their desires and their pains.  Here’s what you do: remind yourself how valuable the other person is to you and how much you care about them, then ask yourself how you can show them love and care in this moment.  In other words, make a conscious effort to take your focus off yourself and your agenda and put your focus on loving them.
  2. Make a commitment to BE ON THE SAME TEAM
    If you are in a relationship, a spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and love is imperative.  You and your partner have the goal of having a great relationship.  That means you work together with one another’s strengths and weaknesses, devise strategies, have each other’s backs and give it your all to win the relationship game.  You must not fight against each other but for each other and the relationship!
    When someone else is talking, put your mental note pad aside and really hear what the other person has to say.  Every soul on the planet has the basic need to be listened to and cared for.  Give your loved ones this consideration.  When they are finished, don’t run to explain your point right away, but let them know that you heard what they said and that it is important to you.  Even thank them for expressing it.  When we know that we are listened to, loved and cared for we have a strong sense of wellbeing, we can take the gloves off and have a loving, problem-solving dialog.  And, at the end of the day, isn’t that a gift of love that you really want to give to your loved one – a strong sense of well-being, love and security?
  4. CLARIFY what the other person really said and don’t make assumptions!
    Again, before you snap and end up in an angry or tearful outburst, stop and kindly ask the other person what they mean.  Don’t assume they are out to hurt you.  When something pushes one of your buttons, stop and ask.  You can say something like, “When you just said you were going to make your own meal, I felt rejected, like you were telling me you didn’t like my cooking or something.  What’s really going on?  What did you intend for me to hear?”  That is taking responsibility for your own feelings and letting your loved one know how you interpreted what they said, giving them a chance to correct the message.


It takes some awareness and self-control, but if you can learn these principals and implement them, you will certainly enjoy more harmonious and loving relationships in every area of your life.

Think about this: an opponent that is selfish, doesn’t listen and makes assumptions without getting the facts straight.  Not the kind of person you would even want to be associated with, right?  Let’s not be that person to our loved ones.

Instead, let’s be a great team member!  Think about this: a teammate who has your back, cares about what you think and feel, really listens to you and reflects back to you what you said so they can completely understand what you are communicating to them.  That is the kind of person that we want in our lives, in our families, in our friendships, in our work places, in our world.

Let’s do this!  More love, more understanding, more compassion, more forgiveness – we all WIN.  We can change the world, or at least our corner of it.  We can for sure have better relationships!

Please contact me for a free coaching session if you need to talk this through.  513-646-0767.

Blessings to you as you implement these principals!
Love, Erika

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  – Ghandi


Posted in My Thoughts