Communication gaps are the distances between what we meant to say, what we did say, what the other person heard, and what the other person thinks they heard. Because we communicate by attaching meaningful messages to what we say and how we say it, it is important for understanding what is being communicated by what was said.
Because we experience different perceptions, have matured in different environments and possess differing viewpoints, our understandings of the messages being communicated to us will often appear to be quite contradictory.
Some obstacles to enjoyable conversation are lack of understanding, overstating one's point or refusing to discuss touchy subjects. Provoking delicate issues, withdrawing when troubled, or "shutting others up" also obstructs good communication. When these types of communication blockages occur, frustration and discouragement rise up quite rapidly.
The result is inhibited conversations with others, fears of asking for what we really want, disbelief in what others say, and feeling like people are talking down to us or do not take our concerns seriously.
There are six common communication obstacles that are always detrimental to a relationship and should be avoided if possible. These will wound your listener and hinder communication.
The most common communication obstacles are:
- Global labels – Some common examples include words like: Ugly, selfish, stupid, asinine, evil, disgusting, worthless, mean, and lazy. These are all hurtful labels which will estrange our listener. These labels are particularly damaging when used in the formats like “You are worthless, lazy, etc. . . .” Instead of addressing a specific issue or behaviour, global labels create indictment, and alienate the listener.
- Sarcasm – This negative form of humour conveys to the listener that you have contempt for them. Usually, this is a cover for feelings of hurt and anger. This typically pushes the listener away and creates further anger and resentment.
- Dragging up the past – Raking over old wounds and betrayals usually destroys the possibility of clarifying how you truly feel about the present situation.
- Negative comparisons – "Your sister is getting A's and you can't even get a B!" Comparisons are deadly because they not only contain subtle "you're bad" messages, but may also create feelings of inferiority to family and friends without acknowledging individual contributions.
- Judgemental "you" messages – "You aren't there for me when I need you." "You don't love me anymore." Using the word "you" in the beginning of a sentence assaults the listener using an accusing form and tells the other person what to feel. Putting "always" in front of the accusations make these statements particularly caustic, for example . . . "You are always late."
- Threats – This is a very powerful form of a communication stopper. Instead of talking through sensitive and perhaps uncomfortable issues, this usually shifts the focus of the conversation to fight, flight, freeze or retaliation.