Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Getting Along 102: Miscommunication and Misunderstanding

Initially I thought our problem is Disagreement on certain issues, but now it seems more like a Miscommunication, and Misunderstanding what she meant.

Language is a very complex thing; with one sentence itself could have a variety of meanings, if delivered through different tone, expression or channel. It gets even worst if the Communicator isn’t talking in a direct and straightforward manner, or if the Communicator isn’t very well verse in expressing his or her thoughts, or when the listened don't have the skill to pick up the hidden clues.

Take the following for example

“I want our relationship to be open and truthful, so that we can tell each other everything”

“I want to tell you everything, as I don’t want to suppress my feelings and let the negative energy built up”

“But a lot of times, I dunno how to express thoughts and feeling”

“I am not an expressive person, not used to letting people know my inner feelings”

“If I know my words word hurt you, then I wouldn’t tell”

“Maybe my expectation of truthfulness isn’t the same with yours”

Isn’t the above quite contradicting if it is said by the same person? It kinda confuses me and lead me to think, “Hmm, to be totally truthful or not? To tell or not to tell?” I haven’t quite figured this out. It seems like she would like an open and truthful relationship, as it is a good thing to have. At the same time, she is not quite ready for that, as it is not quite her character to open up and share her inner feelings. So, does she want a compromise in between? What should be told and what should be kept? If it is up to our judgment, then we might have different judgment as well. It is as if the whole conversation about Open and Truthful relationship is voided, as now we individually decide what should be open and close without mutual standard or agreement. Perhaps just the timing isn’t right, and we need more practice on this communication and self expression thingy. Perhaps the whole idea is too idealistic, as we are mere humans who are meant to be flawed.

At times, it might be difficult to get hold what she what exactly she is trying to tell me. Perhaps I should try to read between the lines or listened more tentatively or like I read from someone, use the heart instead of the ears.

Let’s have a careful look at the following

“I feel that sometimes you feel frustrated with me”

“You and I are at different level, thus you make me feel inferior”

“Having you digging on my weakness, it just don’t give me the support to learn, and it hurts more as it comes from you”

“I don’t want you to praise with if I didn’t did a good job, I’ll feel that it is a sympathy”

“I know you are trying to help me”

“I don’t mean we can’t discuss about my weakness”

“Perhaps you didn’t take care of my feelings when you talk”

Looking back, it seems like what I had been doing and saying is hurting her. For me being frustrated with her at times make her very unhappy. While we were talking about her known weaknesses, she feel offended as it’s come out from my mouth. And she claimed I didn’t support her, yet trying to help her; and I can’t speak too frankly too her as it hurts her feelings.

When I turn on my angry self, I would think, WTF! I am just a human being; I can’t feel frustrated when I need to feel frustrated izzit? And it is supposed to be my fault that you feel insecure and inferior? Now, am I not supporting you or I am helping you? Now, it is okay to talk frankly or not? Now, did I dwell into your weakness in a hurting manner or scold you? For god sake, your weaknesses are well known, everyone is talking about it, and I am just trying to help by confronting the brutal fact. What the hell you want from me? That’s the tension and frustration I had which had to be released, though it is not a very good thing, but it is the truth of what I felt for a moment (the truth isn't always pretty).

Once read a book, “Good to Great” about good corporate culture and leadership. One of thing mentioned is “Confront the Brutal Fact”. For the company to change for the better, we must find and acknowledge openly what is our weakness. Only when we are comfortable talking about our weakness, then only could we approach it in an openly matter, rather a taboo which everyone pretentious denied its existence and look elsewhere. I am not trying to dwell on her weakness in a destructive way, like saying she is stupid or useless or anything like that. I thought we can talk openly about the issue, thus find a way to work together to help us be better.

Anyway, all the effort seems like a dead end huh? Perhaps there is no need to despair, as I had some idea on what is going on after a few heat up conversation and complaints. First of all, I think I mustn’t focus too much on the logicality of her sentences, as they always contradict each other and doesn’t quite make sense to me (in fact, they confuse me most of the time). I think it is pretty simple (I think la).

I think the main issue is I get frustrated when she did or said something uncommon, and I was like huh? Then, I’ll naturally turned frustrated and give her that expression which she dislikes. Then I would probably raise my voice and say something stupid. When I noticed what my frustrated self is saying or doing, then I try to cover back by softening my voice and offering some sort of advice or explanation on what just happened. But it is all too late, damage had already been done, she is already unhappy, and anything more words from me will be treated as direct hostility. Though I didn’t actually scold her or use any harsh words, but she is offended by my frustration, or should I say, she was unhappy because I was unhappy about her.

The first time that came to my mind: I consider myself good in the sense that I didn’t scold her or use any harsh words. But showing a moment of frustration? That probably means I can’t feel frustrated anymore, doesn’t it? That put a lot on pressure and limitation on me. It kinda sounds like it is not enough to do the average good, where I must do the very best. I am still trying to figure this think out. Perhaps when I managed to control my frustration in time and she didn’t get upset, I’ll have a smirk on face thinking perhaps everything is worth the moment of joy.

I am thinking, perhaps she had been trying to tell me all these while that it is “My Frustration” which makes her unhappy. Not what I said, but how I had said it. So by analyzing the context of our conversation, everything wouldn’t make sense, and I would never find the answer. I assume I find the answer, but this might not be it. Hmm, very demoralizing …

Okay, let’s not focus on our problems, but how to make our life better. How?
  • Never discuss relationship problem over the phone, email or using any instant messenger. This kind of communication channel isn’t effective for emotional discussion, as the expression and tone of voice couldn’t be delivered properly. When you need to talk, use the good old ways of face to face.
  • Communication is a 2 way thing: talk and listen. The talker needs to learn to express herself by giving as much information as possible for the listener to understand her. How about the listener? He needs to listen with his ears, brain and heart, and anything else he can use. Anyway, there is no excuse of being lousy at it, practice makes perfect. Try very hard to talk, and try very hard to listen.
  • When there is frustration, it needs to be let out. When there is an emotional suppression, it needs to be released. For the good or bad of things, just let it out. Keeping stuff in our heart will just poison our soul. Though sometime I knew think saying something might make her sad, I said it anyway because it is truthful, within good courtesy boundary and I need to say it out (sometimes I wonder am I stupid or what?). Why? Because I worry when I behold something within myself just to avoid a minor confrontation, I would stop talking, Couple who don’t talk won’t argue. That’s not where I plan to head, and perhaps that is also the root causes of why am I in conversation deep shit from time to time.
Any good advice? Just continue what we are doing, and try to get along better :)


Kenny said...

I think all couples need to practice finding a common and agreeable ground when it comes to truly effective communication.

>>Though I didn’t actually scold her or use any harsh words, but she is offended by my frustration, or should I say, she was unhappy because I was unhappy about her.
I think this is just a misunderstanding about how to *relate* to each other's feelings. You need to re-assure her that your being frustrated is a natural thing and it's not the end of the world. The good thing is you're communicating this to your Significant Other ...but use tact...and be very very careful about your words and tone.

The truth hurts of course and people get defensive about it. I might not have a long time girlfriend but at least the friends i know the longest can accept the truth. Yes, it *will* slight and hurt the other persons feelings...but make sure it's only a bit...the good thing is, the other person can accept it and not be too defensive about it...THAT requires time.
My best friends and I can talk truthfully and not end up in heated argument. We don't even have to agree with what the other said! In that case, we'll just go..hmm...is that so? thanks for bringing that up to light...maybe i wasn't so and so ...i'm sorry, maybe i should...and so on and on...in a friendly discussion. If there's still no agreement or resolution...recognize that the problem might be trivial so the both of us would agree to disagree and let the issue go. Sometimes it's just not worth thinking too much about.

Maybe the two of you shouldn't be so straightforward in expressing your feelings ...yet...it's still really early in the relationship. Be tactful and diplomatic...especially since the other person has emotional baggages ...so becareful about triggering any hot buttons.

You know what's THE single most important element in a relationship? No...it's not love...it comes before love....and it is the foundation of all good relationships...between friends, lovers, relatives etc.
THE single most important element is R.E.S.P.E.C.T. And this respect must be mutual...respect each other first...and even when you share the truth...it won't hurt that much if you express it respectfully.

>Never discuss relationship problem over the phone, email or using any instant messenger.
I disagree. Sometimes these are the *only* forms of communication available. If both sides find it convenient and not too busy with other pressing issues to discuss their feelings...why not do it now? My experience tells me that, when used correctly...things *can* be resolved via phone, email or IM. It's just how you use it....practice practice practice!
However i can see how these forms of communication can seem frustrating because some people just can't express themselves well enough via written form or vocal...or just find it uncomfortable to talk via the phone etc. Fine...don't use technology then...but i truly believe that proper use is possible...just needs practice...can't write well enough? Improve your language skills! :)

>Communication is a 2 way thing: talk and listen.
Agreed. Though some people just can't communicate well...as long as they're willing to try and try with gazillion joules of patience...improvement is possible. But if they just don't bother...sorry dude..i dunno how to help that...nevertheless I've seen some truly successful couples of old age that either one or both sides don't really talk to each other that much anyway. Weird i know...but they exist! What's their secret? I suspect it's mutual respect again...and love....love love..

>When there is frustration, it needs to be let out.
While this may seem like conventional wisdom...there is always a time and place for these sort of things.
Sometimes, holding back for the correct time is better...sometimes use tact and patience in bringing your point across...some people are sensitive and might take your honest/frank words too harshly and then it's shields up! Missiles ready! And boom! Hurtful words might come out...words that person might not mean...but just sort of blurted out since he/she's in defensive mode.

Never underestimate how much emotional baggage each one of us carry...we all have baggage...trigger those and things might get ugly...When it does...forgive AND forget...
To quote a certain book:
"Love is patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud.
Love is never haughty or selfish or rude.
Love does not demand it’s own way. Love is not irritable or touchy.
Love does not hold grudges and will hardly notice when others do it wrong.
Love is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out."

Be patient with her, Desmond...don't be too brash yourself to suddenly want to share everything! Sometimes people are like 'kiasi' guinea pigs...they get jumpy and run away when you hold your hand out to them...but give them some time and they will trust you more and more.

So guys...the relationship is still young...i wish you both happy trying to work things out ;)
Don't forget to tell yourselves at all times..."I love this person...and i respect him/her as my best friend!"

d_luaz said...

TQ for the insight.

Perhaps there is nothing absolute in this matter, not absulute truth, no absolute frankness, not absolute sharing. Just tact and be diplomatic, just like evrything else in life.

Perhaps sometimes it is due to some damn principal, attitude, character or prior expectation, and perhaps some selfishness.

I guess there is no quick n dirty guide, only RESPECT and LOVE? I always though is Openess and Love, perhaps I got it all wrong :)

meiru said...

yes, respect and love, in any relationship..