Why Communication Fails

motivational_speaker_linda_larsenA friend of mine once said that he believed verbal communication did not evolve as a way to be better understood by other people, but rather as a way to hide what we really think and feel.  As a motivational speaker on communication, I was very curious as to his reasoning. His answer was intriguing.

He said that when all we had was nonverbal communication, people got really good at understanding what was going on. Really good. Then, in an effort to conceal their true feelings, they developed words to confuse people.  As evidence he pointed to how frequently people say one thing – and actually mean another.  

  • "Oh, I'm fine," says the woman when her boyfriend asks her how she is when he walks in an hour late.
  • "I'm not really hungry," says the very hungry daughter to her mom when she sees that scary green soup coming to the table.
  • "Yes, I understand," says the man who doesn't really understand when his son says, yet again, that he can't come over to visit.

I have no idea if there is any validity to his reasoning, but it did get me to thinking how often people do this. Myself included. Our reasons make sense – we are too emotional to be articulate, we don't want to hurt someone's feelings or we don't want to appear vulnerable. But when we take the easy way out, we really complicate things. One more thing gets shoved under the rug, adding years of pain, confusion and mud to the pile. 

I believe that with kindness and grace we can assertively tell the truth about how we feel. Let's look at the above examples:

  • "I'm upset and frustrated. I worked hard to make you a great dinner and have it ready when you said you'd be here."
  • "Mom, I'm not crazy about that soup. I love you – but that soup scares me." (A little humor can be a good thing to defuse emotions.)
  • "Son, I'm hurt. You've declined my invitations for the last 3 months and that makes me feel unimportant to you."

I know it takes courage to, as my friend and colleague Colette Carlson says, speak your truth, but the payoff can be well worth the effort.  As for me – I vote for a little bit of immediate discomfort in exchange for longer, healthier, happier relationships filled with mutual respect and honesty. Loving honesty. 

How about you?





Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. If you go back our basic and carnal instincts, most creatures behave quietly in new, uncertain, and potentially hostile environments, as not to make themselves noticed, observe others in its environment and ensure its safety before letting down its guard and taking it to the next step. Any sound that we made in this type of environment back would make us known to what either may benefit or harm us.

    In an environment that is considered home-base, surrounded by creatures that are alike, part of the environment that responsible for our survival, the need for observation is replaced with the need to interact, fit in and integrate. Those who do not "fit in" well, whether due to bad behavior or sickness, where often expelled from the safety of this home-base environment and had to suffer the consequences of life outside. 

    In most cases, not all, silence is not a favorable characteristic of a partner. Silence can be misinterpreted the more cautious approach that our ancestors took when faced with challenges. How many relationships cease when there is a lack of communication? 

    Switch to the partner who is verbal. There only two results of their efforts to communicate; they either are listened to or igored. If the communication is sincere, socially acceptable, and or beneficial to everyones well-being, then they are listened to. If the communication is laced wtih insincerities, lies, deceptions, redundancies, and other negative connotations, then they are eventually ignored. How many relationships break up when there is an excess of communication coming from the mind of character with negative qualities?

    The more intimate the relationship, the more critical one is of the other and their communication skills.


    Switch to the hostile environment, silence was used to hide something… our skin. On the flipside, our ancestors would have used their vocal chords to demonstrate their prowess, intelligence, and superiority to "scare-off" any threat. In both case, there was an effort to mask the truth in this environment. How many individually who publically blasted a state-of-being, eventually revealled that they were actually trying to hide their own inadequacies? 

    So, the answer to your question, is yes. Communication can be used as a tool to hide your true feelings. The more public the environment, the more likely that this is occuring. 


  2. Great post Linda! And I agree that sometimes we clutter up the truth with phrases that make the receiver have to decode what the person is really saying and meaning. Sometimes it's easier just to hear the cold hard facts – or rather opinions as the case tends to most often be. Not as much fun to hear. But still.

  3. Boy oh boy, if we only practiced this more often!  I love this – especially about the soup being scary.  I agree, adding humor is a great de-fuser of hard feelings!  

  4. Great great great!  As crunchy as it feels to share what we are truly feeling – it is soooo much better than the ooogy stuff that festers when we repress our feelings.  

    Quick and clean communication is the bran in our emotional diet : )  

    And green soup scares me as well! 

  5. Learned this lesson the long and drawn out way!  Your advice is incredibly valuable to hear for those of us who lose our voice in a relationship!

  6. Linda, you know I LOVE this blog, and appreciate the shout out. I had to learn this lesson the hard way spending many years afraid of feeling vulnerable and adding pounds of protection to my body.  Now I know I must speak my truth with assertiveness and grace to keep my world and relationships (and me) healthy. Beautiful post.

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