Simply put, interpersonal communication is when you want to share something with someone. You send a message and someone else receives it. This other one can now send you a message again, and you receive it.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
If it were that easy, there wouldn’t be any conflicts in the world. People would not argue and governments would not wage war.
- What’s the problem if we don’t understand each other?
- Why doesn’t my partner understand what I’m saying?
- Or even better: Why doesn’t my partner understand what I want to say?
- Why doesn’t he understand that I’m hurt?
- Why doesn’t he tell me he loves me?
- Why isn’t my partner talking to me?
There are a thousand things that can somehow go wrong in communication between couples.
And since we have no answer to the questions, we think it’s because of the lack of love. My partner doesn’t love me.
Or: Maybe I don’t really love my partner?!
Or: We just don’t fit together.
But that’s not right! No matter where you go, on every continent and in every country, people have the same difficulties.
Communication is not as easy as we always think.
Guess how many words the English language has?
Tip: The Oxford English Dictionary has around 170.000.
But that is by no means all: Researchers from Harvard University and Google found 2010 more than 1.1 Million words.
Sure, we all have a smaller vocabulary.
Speaking words does not mean that the other person understands the word exactly as you meant it.
Because you have a different story than your partner, a different personality, different trains of thought.
And a different family.
Imagine you’re sitting at lunch. In some families, it happens that way:
“Could you pass the salad, please? Thank you!”
In others, more like this:
“Salat to me!”
If you don’t believe me, I know both!
It doesn’t mean family 2 loves each other any less. It doesn’t mean the people in family 2 don’t have decency. It only means that family 2 obviously communicates quite differently from family
1.So now imagine you grew up in family 1. And your partner in family 2.
You see, this has nothing to do with the love between you! Still gets messy.
Schulz von Thun: Talking to Each Other
There is a professor of psychology called Friedemann Schulz von Thun. This man has taken this whole subject apart in his German book “Miteinander Reden”.
Because that’s the way it is:
In the communication between two people there is a sender that is the one that talks. And a receiver who hears the message.
The problem is, they’re two different people. The sender, so I now, say something. However, I am not only telling you a message, there are some other things that are in what I have said.
You, on the other hand, you may hear the things I’ve said quite differently from what I meant.
We all know that when suddenly there is a misunderstanding in the room and nobody knows what happened.
Typical case: A woman stands in front of a mirror and says, “Oh my gosh, I’m so fat.”
For the man, there’s really no way to bypass that landmine.
Normally the man would understand that as classical factual information.
“Aha, my wife thinks she’s too fat. Let’s see, good: What does the body mass index say?”
You can guess how it’ll turn out once he opens his mouth! Maybe he says, “Oh, maybe a little. But it’s all right. You can still put the dress on!”
Most men only do this once wrong!
Of course, this message from the woman “I’m too fat” was not a factual message. It was actually an appeal: “Please tell me that I am not too fat, but extremely handsome and slim!
Besides, the woman says something about herself: I don’t feel pretty enough, I need encouragement, confirmation.
And finally she says something about the relationship to the man: “You are important to me, I trust you. So I tell you how dissatisfied I am and hope you encourage me.”
Since this is obviously not all complicated enough, the receiver is now added: The sender has 4 possibilities to send his message and the receiver has 4 possibilities to receive the message.
Imagine a man saying to his wife or girlfriend:
“Wow, you look great today!”
And the partner replies: “And otherwise I’m always ugly or what?”
The man doesn’t understand what he did wrong at all.
The woman obviously did not understand the message as a compliment, but with the so-called “relationship ear”.
So she’s wondering: „What does the man want from me? I’m not good-looking enough for him otherwise?“
But perhaps she also sees a revelation of himself in it: “Aha, probably he wants more from me tonight than just a date.
Read on in Part 2 to find out exactly what this looks like and what other landmines are concealed in the communication within the partnership. In addition, there are some valuable tips in the second part.