Communication is essential to any relationship, professional or personal. It’s also one of the most challenging aspects of any relationship. When communication breaks down, so does the relationship. Trust strains, respect wanes, and conflict ensues. Communication traps occur when people fail to understand each other’s intentions or meanings accurately. These traps create misunderstandings, leading to awkward situations, and can strain even the strongest relationships. Even well-intentioned individuals can fall into one of these traps if they don’t pay attention to detail and recognize potential hazards in communication. People tend to make assumptions about what others mean, but those assumptions are usually correct enough that we trust them implicitly. When it comes to communication traps, however, those assumptions can lead us astray if we don’t double-check them with others first:
Assuming they are a mind reader
If you’ve been in a relationship long enough, you probably have a sense of what your partner needs from you. The problem is that communication is a two-way street. If one person stops communicating, the other has to be able to pick up their cues. Otherwise, the less verbal partner will feel neglected and unloved, and the relationship will suffer as a result. Many of us have been in those situations where we try to read our partner’s mind and act like they want us to without them ever saying anything. It’s a trap that you have to avoid at all costs: If your partner isn’t communicating, ask for what you need!
Waiting to Cash In
Communication works both ways. When you and your significant other go on a date, for example, she is investing time, energy and money in you. You should be doing the same. You may think to yourself, “I’m going to be with this person forever. I don’t need to start cashing in now!” But the thing is, when you wait to start investing, you may be waiting forever. Your partner may feel as though he’s giving more than he’s getting out of the relationship. When people feel like they’re investing more than they’re getting in return, they’re likely to end the relationship. It’s important to recognize when you need to start cashing in on your relationship and make that investment. Be thoughtful, be generous and be a team player.
Mistaking Words for Actions
If you say “I love you” to your partner, it doesn’t mean that you have to say it every day for the rest of your life. There are times, though, when you need to say it, and your partner needs to hear it. If you’re in a long-term relationship, you may have fallen into the trap of mistaking words for actions. You and your partner may have discussed that you’re committed to the relationship, but he doesn’t feel like you mean it. He may need to hear those three words from you. He may need to see you put your money where your mouth is. Your partner isn’t a mind reader. He needs you to tell him how you feel. He needs to know that you’re in this thing for the long haul.
Sometimes we want to be reactive and other times we want to be proactive. When your partner is reactive, he’s operating out of emotion and not out of rational thinking. Your partner may jump to conclusions and make false assumptions. If you jump on the defensive when he asks you a question, he’ll probably get defensive right back at you. If you’re reactive and your partner is proactive, he’ll be in a more rational state of mind, and you can have a calm conversation. Take a step back and let the situation settle before you talk to your partner. Otherwise, you’re likely to both be reactive, and the conversation may go nowhere.
Communication is a two-way street. Make sure that both you and your partner are communicating clearly and effectively. If you’ve fallen into one of these communication traps, try to learn from the mistake and avoid it in the future. You can avoid these traps with little attention to detail and keep your relationship strong.