Have you ever noticed that some people in your life are direct, to the point and crystal clear about their opinions on a wide range of topics? They have a “direct” communication style.
Other people use an indirect style. They spend more time developing their point and are afraid to create tension or discomfort, especially when talking about a sensitive topic. You may notice when you talk to these people it takes effort to figure out where they are going with the conversation, what point they are trying to make. They call on your reserves of patience.
When couples use different communication styles
Frequently couples have different communication styles and it causes tension and frustration. Here is an example: Jack has just arrived home from work. Marion had arrived a couple of hours earlier.
Jack: Marion, let’s go out for dinner. Where would you like to go?
Marion: You know Judy and Jim had dinner Wednesday at China Empress. They ordered Egg Foo Young and General Tsao Chicken. Judy told me the service was abysmally slow. It turned out the waiter was Wendy’s son. Wendy, you remember Wendy, right? Well…
Jack: (Interrupting and jiggling keys) Marian, please, I am starving. I ask you a question and you never answer it. Who cares about Wendy and her son. Where do you want to go?
The difference in their communication styles – Jack is direct, Marion, indirect – is a major cause of tension in their relationship. Jack feels impatient (and hungry) most of the time in his conversation with Marion. His interruptions and infrequent initiation of conversation with her leave Marion feeling like she is boring and uninteresting to Jack. Further, Marion is not comfortable asserting what she wants so she proceeds in a roundabout manner, taking a long and winding road. Sometimes she feels Jack puts her in a box by ‘making’ her serve it up in the way Jack wants – direct. This robs her of her individuality of expression and her joy of talking.
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With some minor changes in approach, their conversations could be much more effective as well as more appealing to both of them. Jack needs to be patient: encourage Marion to be more direct and let her know that it is ok to express her preferences.
Marion needs to work on her timing and giving her audience, Jack, in this case, an abridged version that he can hear better. Jack may have been more interested in her story about Wendy’s son if Marion had first chosen a specific place to eat and then told him the story after they were in the car and already on their way to the restaurant. She may find he is a more eager listener and this change may even encourage Jack to talk with her more if she gives him a bit more space in the conversation.