Three Reasons That Communication Fails

You often communicate in ways that, instead of promoting understanding, contribute to confusion. In this article, we talk about three ways in which communication fails.
Three Reasons That Communication Fails
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 26 March, 2022

In The Little Prince, the beautiful work of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the protagonist said that “ Language is the source of misunderstandings ”. He was referring to the difficulty that we human beings have in putting into words what we really feel or think. These are the times when communication fails.

You tend to assume that you’re pretty clear when you put into words what you really feel or think. However, in reality, expressing yourself can be much more difficult than you think. For instance, sometimes, you decide to just suggest, believing that the rest of your unsaid message will be understood. It can also happen that, whoever is listening to you, understands what you say in their own idiosyncratic way, even if you’ve expressed yourself clearly.

As a matter of fact, communication is much more than just words. Furthermore, it’s easy to fall into the trap of misunderstanding. Here, we take a look at some of the situations in which communication fails.

trouble with communication

Silence as a substitute for a scream

This is a mechanism you use when you feel angry or resentful. Instead of clearly stating what it was that bothered you, you opt for a grave and harsh silence. If they ask you “What’s wrong with you?” you answer calmly, “Nothing”, even though it’s clear that this isn’t the case.

In this case, your communication has failed. That’s because you assumed that the other person should’ve realized on their own that they did something that offended you. Maybe they forgot to tell you something, or they didn’t understand that you needed them to be more affectionate, or they missed something that was important to you.

In reality, remaining silent never leads to understanding. Communicating is the only valid option to deal with this type of situation. Say calmly and clearly what it is that’s upsetting you. Only in this way can you establish healthy and mature communication with others.

The subtleties

Sometimes, you choose to say things indirectly or use certain ‘niceties’. However, this form of communication doesn’t contribute anything to your relationship with others. If you have something to say, you should say it, once and for all. If it’s not important, then leave it and say nothing.

The only thing that speaking indirectly achieves is to create a difficult atmosphere. Furthermore, it means the other person may interpret your words in many different ways. Therefore, it’s easy for confusion to arise and for any disagreement or conflict to be prolonged. This could be resolved if you simply spoke out.

Two heads communicating.

Beating about the bush

Occasionally, instead of getting straight to the point, you beat around the bush and end up not saying what you wanted to say. For example,  say you’re angry with your partner because they paid too much attention to someone else at a dinner or a party. You don’t express your annoyance with them directly for fear of being branded as jealous or possessive. In fact, you express your anger by criticizing their physical appearance, their untidiness, or some other irrelevant matter.

In this instance, as in the other cases, not saying things clearly leads to errors in your perception of the other. Hence, your communication fails. 

An important part of being an adult is knowing how to say what you feel and think, in a timely manner, and to whom it corresponds. Only in this way, can you establish healthy and mature relationships with others.

Image courtesy of loungerie

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.