Silence is a powerful communicator. Whenever we see a marriage that is slowly disintegrating, it’s usually followed by the couple concluding “they can’t communicate” or “they don’t talk anymore.” These couples believe that their non-talking is a lack of communication. When in fact it’s the opposite. When you don’t talk, silence sends a surplus of negative messages. Silence is powerful in its own way.
Silence is not the cause of poor communication – the fear of pain is. It’s human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The truth is people actually avoid pain first, then seek pleasure. And under painful circumstances communication goes awry and silence can set in.
There are four styles of miscommunication that result when a person feels threatened. Placating, Blaming, Computing and Distracting. By understanding these styles and recognizing when they occur, you can ease your tension (or your partner’s) and get to the root of the cause before your communication breaks down and the silence sets in.
The placater is a “yes” person. This person is eager to please and apologetic. You’ll frequently hear placaters say things like: “Whatever you want!” or “Don’t worry about me, it’s ok.” They want to keep the peace at any price, including feeling worthless.
Studies show that placaters have difficulties expressing anger and hold so many feelings in they often become depressed. As a placater, you should remind yourself that it is ok to disagree! If your spouse if a placater, try to recognize these actions so you can help them express their feelings when they are holding back.
The blamer is a fault finder who criticizes relentlessly and speaks in generalizations. You’ll often hear blamers saying things such as “You never do anything right!” or “You’re just like your mother.” Deep inside, blamers usually feel unworthy or unlovable and can get angry at the anticipation that they won’t get what they want. Blamers tend to find that the best defense is a good defense.
If you (or your spouse) are a blamer try to recognize when you feel the need to be defensive. You likely fear dealing with expression or pain – try to let this go. Once you recognize these behaviors, learn to speak on your own behalf, without indicting others in the process.
The computer is a reasonable, calm and collected person. This person usually never admits mistakes and expects people to conform and perform. You’ll often hear the computer saying: “Upset? I’m not upset. Why do you think I am upset?” Computers fear emotion and prefer facts and stats.
If you or your spouse often find yourself computing, then it’s time to open up the communication doors and express your real feelings. Computers need someone to ask them how they feel about certain things. If you recognize this trait in your spouse, having an intentional conversation with them may help.
The distracter resorts to irrelevancies under stress and avoids direct eye contact and direct answers. Distracters are also quick to change the subject. You’ll often hear them saying something along the lines of: “What problem? Let’s go shopping.” Distracters fear fighting, and confrontation can bring this on.
The solution? Distracters need to know they are safe, not helpless. Problems can be solved and conflicts can be resolved. Encourage yourself (or your spouse) to confront problems head-on with productive conversation, rather than burying them.
The next time you find yourself communicating with your partner by placating, blaming, computing or distracting, remember that this is likely the result of feeling stressed or hurt about something. And vice versa, if you find your partner has resulted to one of these methods, ease their tension by being sensitive and trying to get to the root of the issue.
By opening up the communication walls before they completely close, you will be well on your way to a solid and productive conversation.