Does anyone ever admit that they are not exactly the best communicator around? Maybe even that they are crummy conversationalists, incorrigibly competitive, and a bossy know-it-all, too? Probably not.
Wouldn’t that be nice to hear sometimes? Someone freely admitting the “communication problems” are at least a little bit on their side?
Maybe you think there are communication problems – the person in question (spouse, friend, child, parent) “never talks with me.” It may be on their side, certainly – most problems have multiple factors, and communication is no exception. However, you only have control over you – not them. So, if the communication problem falls into the “we never talk anymore” column, perhaps the following might offer perspectives. If it’s possible it might be you…
Are you the Conversation Hijacker? Does every topic offer you a possibility to wrestle control of the conversation, taking over, changing direction and refusing to yield to the other people in the conversation? They bring up the local baseball team and you take “sports” and launch into a detailed analysis of an entirely different game, the season ahead, and every stupid mistake the nearest team made when adding new players.
Perhaps you are the Professor. You don’t discuss, you lecture: expanding on your opinion, the evidence as you see it, and what’s wrong with other people’s positions, beliefs, or behaviors. Expertise is wonderful; battering people with it is not nice.
Related to this, perhaps you become the Guidance Counselor or Coach: giving unsolicited advice, suggestions, and explanations of the person’s “problem” and the solution as you see it. You don’t stop to be sure you have enough information to even begin to formulate advice; in your unconscious arrogance, you assume you have perfect-fit prêt-a-porté advice for every occasion.
Or, perhaps you are the Competitor. They have a headache? You’ve had a migraine for days. Their beloved pet died? You have three sad stories to top their heartache. They have a muscle ache, but YOU need physical therapy.
Do you just launch into a monologue, barely taking a breath and not allowing the usual give-and-take of conversation?
Sometimes, the echoing silence on the other end of the couch is really on that end – your wife is lost in thought, your husband is anxious, your parent is depressed, or your teenager is preoccupied with stressors. Perhaps there is some unresolved hurt between you. Perhaps, though, the person you love has fallen silent because they cannot trust you to stay in the conversation with them; they expect you to take over.