It’s breakfast table pondering time again …  and this time we were pondering on the complexities of communication and how we manage despite mostly getting it wrong!

Yesterday the husband was a trifle morose; his usual ebullience was missing and a dour quizzical look dominated his features.  In short, he looked grumpy … so I asked the one question that men absolutely hate “Is everything OK love?”

I am a communication trainer with Trischel, and  one of the GenderGurus – I really should have known better; but I lost all my common sense and asked it anyway.  The response was completely predictable. 

“I’m fine!”

Now reading that makes it all seem nice and tidy – I asked a simple question and I got a perfectly obvious answer – most men would say “well, what’s wrong with that?”  While most women would be thinking “Boy, are you for it!”

Because often the real sense of our communication is not always in what we say, but in the way that we say it.  And in this case the words were understandable – and so were the tone and the inflection – it meant that there was something seriously wrong.

Things then got a little tricky, I being female and quite happy to discuss my feelings versus him being male and most reluctant – but eventually I got to the bottom of the problem.

In reality; the husband was uncomfortably cold and his attack of the grumps was because he had go into the garage, find the heater which was somewhere in the chaos; test it out and then bring it into the office.  He was indeed grumpy – and believed I should have been able to understand the reason why without having to ask stupid questions.

I think we all have these kinds of non-conversations where we are expected to understand the unspoken message just by instinct.  Most women do this to perfection, to the frustration of their partners; but men need not complain for they are just as prone to it as anyone.  That macho persona does not fool us you know!

Interpersonal communication (as the experts put it) is what our lives are built on, and we expect that the people we speak with, who we email or talk to on the telephone will understand us exactly the way we want them to – but it doesn’t always happen that way.

Communication is as much a matter of the mind as it is of the mouth! Most of what we observe is just the outer shell that we all show the world, Inside there are complexities of moods, experience, knowledge and emotions – all bubbling away to create a cauldron of confusion.

And in some situations we may not wish to share that confusion, or we may believe that our family or friends should automatically know how we feel or what we think. After all, as the husband said, we’ve been married for thirty years I should have some idea of how he operates!!

And it’s a touchy subject; do we continue to push for answers and risk being accused of nagging; or do we take them at face value and risk being accused of heartlessness?

Which was the point of the ponderings at the breakfast table.  What are the signals that indicate it is acceptable to dig deeper?  We decided that it was in the unspoken communication signals – the little indications that are really saying “Everything is not fine, and eventually I will tell you if you insist!”

We also decided that because we are so attuned to these unspoken signals, non-personal communication such as email, facebook and such like are hotbeds of misunderstandings. We are blind to the warning signs; or ignorant of the humorous intention.  We can be led sadly astray in our understanding if we rely merely on what is written without any indication of the way in which was intended to be said. Hence the prevalence of those ‘smiley’ things which is merely a way of trying to put the personal factor back into the conversation.

So communication is more than just words, it is the sum total of feelings, frustrations and experiences  – and in the case of the husband it is also affected by the weather.

Complex thing this communication business.
Michele @ Trischel

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