Stephanie Sieberhagen
Psychologist

Relationship Specialist

Dr Steph's blog

The unsaid

Posted by stephaniesieberhagen@gmail.com on March 29, 2020 at 8:00 AM

It is said that the most important part of communication is hearing what is  not said. I think there are very many different important aspects to communication including the courage to speak up and the perseverance to stick with the subject even when red herrings are thrown your way. Hearing what is not said, however is definitely also key and here is a bit more about that:

But what does hearing the unsaid mean? I will give you a clue: They say men lie through exaggeration and women lie through omission. By and large this is fairly true. In both kinds of lying or misinformation, there are elements of what isn't being said.In an exaggeration the key unsaid thing is, 'I don't feel what I have to say is enough'. You can explore this. Why is it not enough? Is the man saying that what he did wasn't enough, or is he trying to divert attention to the thing he actually did do, and away from the things he didn't do, by exaggerating what was done? In either instance the axaggeration needs to be explored. The truth of his feelings are underneath his motivation. Why does he think that what he did was not good enough? Does he fear judgment or reprisal? Why would he fear that? Is it something that usually happens? What role do you play in that? 

And why does the woman omit? Is she not stating her truth because she fears to give offence or cause conflict? Is she worried that the actions she took and that are now being ommitted would cause an argument? Again, is a reprisal a normal result of her reporting on certain behaviours? Why?

So as you can see, there are many possibilities, but what is always true, is that there is more behind communication than just what is being said and what is exaggerated or omitted and most often we use these strategies to avoid the full truth because we fear conflict.

Setting rules of engagement early on in relationships is absolutely vital. Watch the way your partner engages in conflictual dialogue. Do they shy away from or try to avoid conflcit? When they engage in conflict, do they stay focussed on the matter at hand or do they very quickly expand the argument to wider matters, thereby muddying the water so the issue becomes unclear or side-lined? 

Does your partner become sarcastic or make snide comments? This is a huge communication no-no. During those very first days and weeks, when you are still blinded by lust and desire, it is vital to clear your mind enough to figure out these patterns and establish whether your new partner can fight a clean fight. When we first get together, we can easily agree on most topics, but later on conflict will arise and we need to know that this chosen person will be able to navigate the waters calmly with us.

If you are in an established relationship, it becomes harder to create new communication patterns, especially around disagreements. This is so because we have created habits and habits are hard wired into our cgnitive (or brain) patterns. Change, however is possible en definitely desirable if your current way of interacting has become negligent, unproductive or even abusive.

So start by listenning to the unsaid and get productive around addressing these with your partner.

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