COMMUNICATION is to express your view point or give information. CONTROL is trying to force someone else to agree with you. Many angry arguments are fueled by the need to control the other person and make them agree. I recently saw a T-shirt that said, “I am not arguing, I am just telling you why I am right!” Our need to be right and make someone else wrong is one of the biggest hindrances to healthy communication.
Communication has two sides—a talking and expressing side and a listening and receiving side. It fails to fulfill the definition of communication when both sides are not present. For both talking and listening to be present, both the speaker and the listener need to be respectful. If the speaker is not respectful, the listener disengages or becomes defensive. Even if they don’t physically walk away, they mentally disengage as they focus on their reply. If the listener is not respectful, the speaker disengages by giving up.
One way the speaker can show respect is by allowing enough wait time for the listener to formulate a response. Men seem to need more time to think than women. Women seem to respond faster, but with more emotion than men. I have observed that women sometimes give up or walk off before the man can get his thoughts put into words, thus aborting the communication by removing the listener. This results in huge gaps in understanding between couples.
One way the listener can show respect is by actively listening. That means they are not engaged in other activities that distract and give the impression that they don’t care or are too busy to be bothered. Pausing the movie on TV and turning toward the speaker are both actions that say you are ready to listen and are engaged in the conversation. This body language conveys value to the speaker, just as wait time conveys value to the listener.
Other gaps in communication that erode relationships are secrets and lies. Secrets are the absence of communication when important information is not shared. This often catches up with the person keeping secrets in unexpected ways and backfires in the relationship when the secret is revealed in some other way. Lies are, of course, intentionally altering the truth or gossiping. Junk or Joy compare lies and gossip to a spider web. “They both start small and grow until they spin out of control. Both are sticky mazes! The lies you believe entrap you and the lies you tell entangle you.”
The truth is the best, but even truth can be delivered in either loving or unloving ways. Truth that is blurted out too directly and “in your face” accuses and is often not productive. Truth that is so subtle that it needs the listener to fill in gaps, will often lead to confusion because the listener often draws faulty conclusions based on their own experience or ideas. If truth can be delivered in a non-confrontational manner that is complete or invites questions, it can be very productive! Junk or Joy states that truth tomatoes “keep your view of life sharp and clear and helps you walk in peace and keeps you free from hate, fear, and lies.”
We all want to be right and to have others agree with us so control in the area of communication is common. If your communication is often frustrating you, maybe this is an area to explore. Anger is often the result of miscommunication. Anger can keep you from understanding what is being said. As the Offense, Get Off My Fence book says, “The truth is that because someone does not agree with you, it does not mean they didn’t listen to what you said. Communication is to voice your opinion, not to make the other person agree with you.” I have met many people who try to control with anger. It works for them because others tend to back down or give in when bullied with anger. This may work temporarily with strangers who never have to deal with you again; but it is counter productive in close relationships. The listener may give in at first, but eventually they will rebel in some way like ending the relationship. As Junk or Joy comments, “Anger ants injure those who are close,” and anger is a choice you make.
The listener can also control the communication by refusing to consider the speaker’s point of view or ideas. Even an agreement to think about it and talk later will let the speaker know they are being heard. However, an outright refusal of their ideas is a communication killer and they will not be as willing to share again.
One boundary is draw for your communication is that if the conversation remains respectful, staying engaged will help work through the problem and strengthen the relationship. However, if it becomes disrespectful, it is counter productive and you probably need to remove yourself until a calmer atmosphere can be achieved.