Do You Speak A Complementary Language?

22 Jul

Vanessa awoke as the door opened. In a flash, she was off the sofa and beside Greg. She tried to read his face but it was blank. Greg was always such an unreadable book. She guided him to the sofa and waited for the news. He finally cracked a smile and revealed he got the job.

Vanessa was beside herself with joy. She wanted to know all about the interview but Greg chose to do the blank stare thing. He was never that much of a talker. Angry,
Vanessa accuses him of never talking to her and talks about how she can’t stand his constant silence. Greg mutters something indecipherable and heads to the bedroom. Another conversation gone South!

Sarah and Edward have been in a relationship for close to a year. Both believe their relationship would lead to marriage. Edward feels its time to discuss serious issues like where they’ll live, relationship with in-laws, number of children…everything.

On this date, Edward mentions that he is looking at a house at Gbagada, an area close to Victoria Island, Lagos. Since they both work on the Island, they would have easier access to the office. Sarah smiles and says she is sure that he has considered her office which is in Lekki Phase 1. Edward says he has which is why he ruled out Ikeja. Sarah says nothing else, even though she would have preferred to find accommodation on the Island. For the rest of the evening, she grows cold and distant, frustrated with Edward that he can’t hear her unspoken words. Edward attempts at trying to find out what the problem is earns him two words ‘nothing’ and ‘fine’. Edward begins to wonder if he has really found the right woman!

Fred decided a double date was a good way to get to know Karen. They were both in final year and Fred had watched her from afar for a while. They were on this date with Fred’s childhood friend and his sweetheart.

Fred tried to put everyone at ease by sharing an anecdote about the time he tried baking and ended up substituting baking powder for baking soda. Karen jumped on the conversation train eagerly, a little too eagerly shared a tale and then two and soon she was the driver of the train and steered it whichever way she wanted, hardly catching her breath as she spewed out tale after tale, some so tall, it left everyone in an uncomfortable silence. Fred used the time to do a total rethink.

Communication has been defined as the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing or signs. Its etymology is from the Latin ‘Communicare’ which literally means to put in common, impart, share. Experts will tell you that communication is not a linear but a circular process which is never ending. The feedback element ensures that the source at some point becomes the receiver and the receiver the source. Communication is not complete until the receiver interprets the message and makes meaning of it.

It follows then that for communication to take place there has to be an exchange of information which should be clearly understood by the individuals involved. And as the earlier definition shows such exchange does not necessarily involve saying anything. According to experts the ‘rule’ is 55|38|7. That is 55%body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% words. So silence speaks.

You may have noted in your various relationships how people’s personalities are reflected in the way they talk. We have individuals who never seem to say what they mean. They would speak indirectly like Sarah, hoping their partner would catch on-read their mind if you please. They sometimes employ euphemisms and sarcasms. Unless you plug in to their frequency, there will be so much channel noise that communication may never occur.

Then there are those who do all the talking. Like Karen, they always want to be in charge of the conversation. They hardly listen to what other people have to say. Such persons seem to be in love with the sound of their own voice. They also use sarcasm but not to mask what they are trying to say but rather to put other people down and make them the subject of ridicule. They are the communication predators.

We also have those who say very little. They would rather listen and contibute little or nothing. Even when they do, they tend to summarise everything in a sentence or two. Like Greg, they don’t tell long tales and may or may not have the patience to listen to others who do. They may end up often asking people to go straight to the point!

This list is by no means exhaustive (This writer identifies 12 styles ) but when the parties in a relationship have different conversational styles, it often leads to conflicts as highlighted in the opening examples.

In fact, there is nothing essentially wrong with each individual’s conversational style. A person like Karen for instance is a handy person to have around in a room full of people who say much. What we need is to be able to complement each other. For example, imagine if Vanessa had served Greg and gone on to ask in specific terms what she would like to know about the interview session? Or what if Edward, knowing Sarah’s conversation style is passive, had listened beyond her words and understood what she was trying to say?

The key is in identifying the conversational style you lean more towards and try to figure out how you can work on aspects that need improvement or that can make you a better communication complement to your partner.

Why not ask a close friend you can trust with honest feedback or your partner to provide answers to these questions:
1. Do I listen when I am being spoken to or do I cut in and begin to second guess the speaker?
2. Do I ever sincerely acknowledge that I am wrong in an argument or do I have difficulty seeing other people’s point of view?
3. Do I clearly express my feelings or do I hide what I really feel and complain later?
4. Do I always agree with what other people say and remain hesitant to express my own feelings?
5. Do I lace my words with sarcasm or do I state my observations clearly?

If after you get sincere answers to the five questions above you realise that you have weak points, why not work at adopting a style that will make you a better complement?


Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Relationships


3 responses to “Do You Speak A Complementary Language?

  1. tonypox

    July 22, 2012 at 9:41 am

    this is true.has happened to me a couple of times,especially the ‘sarah kind’. With time i had to learn and understand.we keep learning everyday. Well said.

  2. Agali

    July 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Silence speaks a lot!!

    That is why promoting a ‘listening culture’ is also vital for any organisation/establishment.
    Women are often tasked with people management issues because they are thought to be good listeners, and having caring and nurturing skills, which is why there are more women than men in Personnel Departments and Customer Care Centers.

    Good communication is engaging with the person you’re listening to and responding appropriately.
    The ability to listen actively enables the person who is speaking to talk without interruption or contradiction. This allows the speaker to clarify his or her opinion or circumstance. This also improves self-confidence and encourages a better assessment of any proposed action, prior to it being taken.

    Communication shouldn’t be agressive, it shouldn’t be Competitive, it is Collaborative, it is respecting, valuing and harnessing the richness of other people’s ideas.

    “What shapes the future is not what we have in common but the interplay of our differences.” —Shell 2001 Global Scenarios

  3. BragginRightz

    July 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    At least I know I’m not obsessed with the sound of my own voice but I’m no mute either. Either which way, it’s quite a mind opening article. Beautifully written.


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