We heard the same thing but you misunderstood

In elementary school we played a game in class where one person would whisper a sentence or phrase into another student’s ear, then that student would whisper what they thought they heard to the next student and so on and so forth until the last student whispers what they heard back to the originating student.  By the time the sentence/phrase got back to the originating student, it would sometimes be so jacked up that it didn’t even remotely resemble what the originator started with.

Fast forward to adults and with only the two people in a relationship and the same problem still exists.  An adult couple could have a conversation and the person talking could say something that is taken completely differently than how they meant it to be by the other person.  The reason for this is that two people can hear the same information and will have two different understandings of what they just heard.  This is due to people not only processing information differently but also having different ways/styles that they like to communicate.

You need to communicate better

When it comes to communication, there are many different types of people.  Some use fewer words and are straight to the point with no fluff, while others may try to use 1/3 of the words in the dictionary while trying to explain every single point making sure that they are clear and that you understand everything they are saying.  The problem with both of these types of people is that the “no fluff” person leaves the “explaining every single point” person hanging waiting for more of an explanation.  While the “explaining every single point” person loses the attention of the “no fluff” person because their explanation is way too long. When dealing with two different types of communicators words and even entire sentences may get lost or misunderstood because you are expecting the other person to communicate the way you do.

So how will these two different types of communicators have an effective conversation you may be asking yourself (and if you’re not I’m going to give you my thoughts anyway).  The key is to be sensitive to the other person’s style of communicating.  The “no fluff” person can throw an extra sentence or two in to appease the other person, and the “explaining every single point” person can shorten their explanations down a little bit to keep the “no fluff” persons attention, which would keep them from daydreaming.  This may sound silly but above all there needs to be a conversation between the two of you about how you like to communicate as well as how you will try to add more or less when speaking with each other.  There are more examples of different ways people communicate, but I won’t go into them because I’m more of a “no fluff” person so use your imagination and figure them out on your own.

Why aren’t you listening to me?

Have you ever just sat around and people watch and paid special attention to couples when they are communicating?  Sometimes one of them is so in tune with making eye contact that it looks like they are trying to play the staring game to see who will look away first.  We all have seen this and how uncomfortable we felt looking at it, so imagine how it felt for the person on the other end.  They are probably missing a lot of what is being said because they keep having “when will they stop staring at me, or how can you talk for 5 minutes straight and not blink” kind of thoughts.  While the other person appears to be in lala land just looking around, enjoying the sights, yet still listening and communicating just as effectively as the eye to eye gouger.  But now the other person is missing some of the conversation because they are thinking things like “why won’t you look at me, or do I have spinach in my teeth”.

Hey to each his own, but you need to be aware of how your significant other likes to communicate.  So every now and then the intense eye contacterer (yeah I know I made that word up, but you know what it means) needs to look away and make it more comfortable for the person they are talking to look in their direction.  While the eye wanderer may need to come back around and make eye contact with the person they are speaking to more often.  Remember, just because a person is looking away or staring directly into your soul doesn’t mean that they are not hearing what you are saying.  If you want to be sure that they are listening, throw in a “so what do you think about what I just said” and see how they answer.  A conversation needs to be engaging on both sides to keep both parties interested.

No matter which one (or any other type not mentioned here) you are, the key is to know your partner and accept that they communicate differently than you.  As long as they are actually listening and engaging in the conversation it shouldn’t matter if you are an eye wanderer or an intense eye contacterer (yup said it twice), but only that the lines of communication remain open.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on communication and/or this article.

Author: B.A.M


  1. So true. Thinking about who your partner is can prevent overreactions and pointless arguments. We also need to recognize that women might just be looking for someone to listen and care (we love to complain) and men hear a problem and want to solve it. He’s not being callous! He’s trying to help. I was pmsing hardcore one day and my back was an explosion of pain. Boss lady was being herself and I think I even ran into bathroom boy. I was crying to N about my back and his response was: your posture sucks, do this, etc. Initial reaction in my head wasnt pretty lol I’m in pain and you don’t care! But I took a second to think, actually he’s offering me a solution and he’s kinda right, if a little blunt. That’s how he is and I know he does care.

  2. I really liked and enjoyed this post…
    and the thing you said to know if someone is attentive , ” what is your opinion?”
    you know i am not taking this as one to one communication , but i read this in view that if I am in class how can i engage my students towards , what i am saying…
    i will try to use many things advised by you…
    thank you for such a nice share.

  3. It seems so many of us just want to talk these days instead of REALLY listening. You would think that the mile-a-minute talker would recognize that they may have lost the other person, a mile back. But that’s what they get if they just talk instead of trying to engage in conversation isn’t it? Valuable ideas in this post!

    Over from LI group BHB

    • Thanks for the great comment… I understand that sometimes people want to just rant but like you said they need to engage in conversation

  4. Hi Jay. Effective communication really does require considering who you are communicating with. There’s a bit of a balancing act between being your natural self and adapting to accommodate the other party’s style and comfort level. I also lean to the view that unwavering eye contact dilutes the value of it and find it more productive to engage eye contact sporadically both to convey understanding and to check for it. As well as the level of detail, speed of talking, volume and tone are all considerations. I wholly agree your main point. We have to decide whether we just want to unload our opinion or whether we want to understand and be understood.

    • Paul there definitely has to be a balancing act when it comes to conversing. Your right people need to warn the other person I’d this is just going to be a memory dump or a conversation. Tans for the great comment

  5. I have to agree Jay…the unwavering stare always has me wondering if there is something in my teeth! AND…it makes me stop listening completely! Having spent the majority of my career in sales, I know the balancing act of listening to your customer, adapting to his style, yet trying to maintain the uniqueness of my own… it can be exhausting! Life has taught me that personal relationships carry the same burden. Great post…I think communication is the MOST important thing in any relationship; customer, mother, lover, friend, we all want to be understood.

    • Jacqueline, there is nothing worst than the unwavering stare. Just like you I just stop listening except sometimes I keep count of how long it has been between blinks.

  6. That is very funny and I mean that respectfully but whenever someone pegs a personality trait exactly, it seems funny; at least to me. I am not a starer nut I am less verbose than others I know. I do sometimes find myself wondering why this same point needs to be reiterated multiple times. I got it on the first go. But then you relax into it, after some time, and realize that’s just how some like it. It was a lesson that took me decades to figure out. Where was your blog post then. I could have really used it. All is good now and I appreciate the assurance that I am on the right track. Tim

    • Tim, I say the funny thing is a lot so I knew what you meant even without the disclaimer. I wish I had started this blog 4 years ago when I first thought about it. Oh and like you I can’t stand for the same point to be brought up over and over and over again …

  7. Another aspect of effective communication is not only what is said, but how it is said. More often than not, this is one factor that can lead to a breakdown in communication. The tone was too sharp or too heavy, too overbearing, etc. When our spirit of communication is kind, considerate, respectful towards another or others, it remains effective.

    • You are correct it is no only what you say but how you say it. I actually mention that in another post called why men should practice shut up.

  8. I have a son who is constantly explaining things in detail and I have been trying to stop this habit. Lately I’ve been telling him not to use too many words – he never knows when he may need them. He thinks that’s funny but I think he’s been getting the point. Too lengthy explanations just make me tired.

    • LOL… One of my kids likes to try to explain everything down to the fly that flew past her during her latest ordeal. I hope one day my kid gets the point.

    • Assuming things is one of the biggest causes of arguments especially whey the two persons involved do not know how to communicate.

  9. Jay, this may be my favorite post of yours yet. You perfectly described me and my husband with your “no-fluff” and “explaining every single point” types of communicators. (I will plead the fifth on which of those is me.) You’re so right, that what really matters is learning your partner’s style and trying to accommodate it. Something to think about…

    • Thanks Meredith, I am definitely the “no fluff” person and I am not ashamed of it. Learning your partners style of communicating is definitely important.

  10. Listening is a skill, one I believe that has been lost. We are just too busy trying to be heard, we forget to listen which allows for our desired of a two way communication. It takes not allowing outside distractions to interfere with the conversation. It’s so annoying when someone stops you and says something that is not at all related to what you were just saying. I will stop the whole conversation at that point to see what happens. Many times it’s as if I’ve never said anything at all. It’s hard to return the courtesy of attentiveness at that point. To that end, it really is important to understand your partner or the person you’re talking to (or at).

    • I have to admit that I sometimes try to finish peoples sentences but only when they are taking way to long to get their point across. You are correct when you say that listening is a skill that has been lost. Thanks for the great comment.

  11. The five fingers of our hands can never be same! This is equally true for people around us. When it comes to communicate with a person we should appreciate this fact and focus on communicating rather than to judge his/her way of communication. A different kind of post…loved it!

  12. My husband insists that all women like to look at the person they are talking to and men don’t need to. So when we have another couple in the back seat of the car, he puts the woman behind his so that she and I can easily look at each other.

    • LOL. I would have done the same thing as your husband or would have just put you both in the back 🙂

  13. The communication game you refer to in the opening of your post is called, “Telephone,” and we used to play it a lot when I was growing up. I am someone who tends to feel I am not being heard when the person I am speaking to does not make direct contact eye contact with me. Even if they say they are listening to me, I tend to be doubtful. There are so many distractions in today’s world that I really don’t enjoy talking with someone who is multi-tasking or looking around all the time. I agree that it is a very good practice to discuss your communication style with the person you are speaking to, if it is someone you spend a lot of time talking to. This level of mutual sensitivity, if honored on both sides, can go a long, long way.

    • I am the one who has to look around while having a conversation because if I keep making eye contact then I start daydreaming. thanks for the great comment.

  14. It often seems to me that the art of listening is forgotten, that everyone is in such a hurry to get their point of view across and then to rush off to another topic. I consciously try to listen to everything being said to me but sometimes, well, it’s not easy 🙂

  15. you are correct. so many people are formulating their response while you are still talking to them and they miss part of what your saying.

  16. Communication is a tricky thing. Then you have cultural differences and meanings, gender, generational, etc. I was talking to a Ukrainian friend that’s been in the U.S. for over a decade. I mentioned I was going to quit sugar “cold turkey”, a phrase that she’s never heard before. You can imagine the confused look she was giving me.

  17. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always interesting to read content from other authors and
    use something from their web sites.

  18. I think this is even more important to think about since we spend less and less time in face to face conversation and the presence of another real human being with his/her own character traits brings so many new physical and emotional factors into the equation. There is a rule that architects use which says Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Your approach which simply says pay attention to the other person and adjust for optimum communication is just right based on that very useful architecture rule.


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