Communication is difficult. What an understatement! We are very complicated creatures. We feel and think hundreds of complex feelings and thoughts simultaneously. Effective communication requires that we have the self awareness and patience to sort out what our most important thoughts and feelings are before we even begin to relay those thoughts and feelings to another person. On top of that, once we know what it is we are thinking and feeling and what we want to communicate we have pretty limited tools to do that. We mostly rely on language.
Language is pretty limiting. First the words we have to use rarely fully describe the thoughts and feelings we are having and then the way we have to line them up often falls short of getting the message across. To make it even more difficult, we often assume that what we think a word means lines up with what everyone else thinks that word means. Take the sentence, “I’m tired”. You might be thinking, “I worked hard today and my body is feeling weak” or “I didn’t sleep well last night and I need to rest.” or “I’ve been telling you for weeks to please clean the garage and you haven’t done that and I’m done with it!” I might hear, “She needs a rest” or “She’s sleepy” or “She doesn’t like me anymore and doesn’t want to go to the movies with me”
We also use tone of voice, body language and facial expressions to communicate and depending on ones culture and upbringing any of those things can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.
Couples counseling often involves looking at the communication patterns in a couple. Are they assuming that the other person knows what they’re thinking? Are they asking each other what they mean when ambiguous statements are made? Are they frustrated from past missed attempts to communicate and so have just stopped trying?
A therapist works with clients to help them stand back from the hurts and frustrations so that they can examine the patterns and make adjustments. Often times just doing this can set the relationship back on the right track. “I’ll try harder” without the tools to try harder is not going to work. This is when couples counseling can help change trying into doing.