Home Programs /
Paul Beckow
Courses /
Column -
Articles Scheduled
Testimonials Contact Paul

Communication - The Search for Understanding

Taken from the Goldstream Gazette:
LETS TALK April 15, 2009

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual, Marriage, Family Counsellor

Dear Paul,
My husband and I are so quick to react to one another these days. We disagree at the drop of a hat. Our communication feels impossible and leaves us both worn out. Do you think we have a communication problem?

Do you have a communication problem, you ask? Yes, you do.

At the same time, Lynn, there is nothing wrong. It is not personal and you are by no means alone. For human beings, communication IS a huge problem - a real and ongoing dilemma.

Let me explain.

It's mystifying how muddled our communication can become; so full of misinterpretations, reactions, hurt feelings, misunderstandings.

Why is communication such a problem?

To explore communication we must first understand our “listening”. To begin with we might notice - we don't really listen. And neither do they. We don't hear what is said. It would be so easy if we did. Rather, we listen through a warehouse of already established personal opinions, judgments, concerns, fears.

You know how it goes... from the simple to the complicated. He says “Honey, where’s the scissors? And she responds “Why ask me? You had them last. I never use those scissors.”

She says: "No, not tonight, dear" and he hears: " I knew it. Our sex life isn't important to you anymore - and neither am I."

We do not just hear what was said. We hear through the flood of reactions, thoughts, and personal meanings triggered within us. With all the noise and static in our head, communication has to be a problem!

In addition, we all have specific "filters" we listen through. These are our personal ways of listening we have developed over time.

Can you see what organizes or filters your listening? You listen for certain things. Do you listen for: "What’s the problem Ill solve it” Perhaps it's: "I've heard all this before" or: "Are you blaming me?" Some people listen with the filter: "That’s right. That’s wrong. I agree. I disagree." Or “Please, just give me the bottom line”..

The point is we dont JUST simply listen. We’re very busy.

The other thing to note here is that we human beings are so sensitive. Have you noticed how quickly we feel blamed? How defensive we can be ?

That’s where: She: “Honey where are the scissors?” He: “How would I know? I didn’t use your scissors.” comes from. From our defensiveness.

Look and see for yourself. In relationship there is something we are protecting that is far more important to us than our sense of connection with our partner. It is the irrepressible need to protect and uphold our self-image. So many of our responses in communication are a knee-jerk reaction to avoid being "made wrong" at all costs. We are protecting our “sense of self” almost all of the time.

If we feel blamed or corrected, we become defensive, justify ourselves, or blame back. And the race is on! It's all so quick it may as well be automatic. When both people in a relationship are blaming or defending, you can be certain - there is no one listening. And communication is pointless when there is no one listening.

So, Lynn, it seems to me that communication has to be one of the greatest challenges of relationship. Our attentive "open" listening is truly a gift we have to give another. It means so much just to listen and be listened to.

Open listening is an art and calls on our patience, awareness, and commitment. It requires us to slow right down for a moment.

I think our best hope starts with first, understanding, and then, accepting, just how crazy our mixed-up patterns of communication can become.

When we understand how our reactions and misinterpretations affect communication, and accept that, we can then take on the search for clarity and understanding.

It is this searching for understanding when we have slipped off track together that is the real work of communication.


Paul Beckow is a marriage counsellor in the West Shore and can be reached at his e mail: pbeckowLETSTALK@shaw.ca or Paul Beckow Counselling 250 721 2477.

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

Copyright © 2003 Paul Beckow - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Please contact info@dynamic-solutions.com
for information