Thinking Out Loud

Beyond Communication Styles?

Mark was enthusiastic about using the Communication Styles Framework to approach his marital problems with Martha. Martha, however, was more cautious. He easily identified with the interpersonal component and could see Martha’s intrapersonal strengths, and it seemed clear to him that this difference was causing communication problems in their relationship.

Mark explained that he thinks out loud a lot, saying everything (and anything!) on his mind, which he believed confused and overwhelmed her.  She agreed that this was often hard for her. Then he said that Martha thinks things through internally before offering her deeper thoughts and feelings,and how it’s hard for him to be patient through this process. Sounds pretty classical inter/intra.

At the end of Mark’s description, Martha said, “I don’t think this is why we don’t get along. We have a lot of issues and differences.” Mark didn’t know how to respond and I thought it was a good time for me to comment on Martha’s concern.

The CS Framework doesn’t relegate emotional dynamics to a place of lesser importance. Nor does it inhibit analytical understanding of our interpersonal/emotional lives. In fact it creates an emotionally safe structure, validates individual strengths, and recognizes how the communication process itself can get in the way of true understanding. With too much friction driven by style differences, almost everything feels like a problem. Once you attend to the communication styles problems, however, the core issues sift out with greater clarity.

How does this apply to Martha and Mark? When Martha realized that Mark wasn’t trying to dominate because he talked a lot, she became more trusting. And when Mark understood that he was taking up too much of the air space, he left more room for Martha to participate. Mark also recognized that Martha wasn’t withholding but genuinely needed more time to think things through, which made him less irritable and critical. These communication styles differences accounted for a significant proportion of the tension between them. By structuring their interaction to better account for these differences, they established a process better suited to discuss meaningful issues. With practice they incorporated the CS Framework and discussed issues of trust, respect, intimacy and goals for their future. They also learned how to disagree and compromise.

Learning how to develop effective communication patterns in intimate relationships is no small matter. It takes awareness and consistent effort with the right tools. The CS Framework offers those tools and an opportunity to better understand yourself and your partner, which inevitably leads
to fuller, deeper discussion.

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