Non Verbal Communication, in Relationships, Isn’t Enough


Non Verbal Communication, in Relationships, Isn't Enough

Non verbal communication in relationships isn’t enough to keep them running. You need clarity. You need to understand one another. Here’s where verbal communication broke down for one couple and what it meant for them.

I was working with a couple recently. The boyfriend was unhappy. The girlfriend was unhappy. They both reported high tension in the home. But when we looked at what was happening, even though both were not talking and silent with each other, their behaviors spoke volumes.

They were wondering if they should stay together. Both were trying to feel better. But then something happened. The boyfriend began to isolate. He would come home from work sit on the couch, and drink beer while watching sports. Nothing wrong with this, but when he was focusing on the television, he wouldn’t talk to the girlfriend—not a word.

We Resort to Non-Verbal Communication in Relationships, When We Can’t Bring Ourselves to Say Something

Non verbal communication in relationships is a stopgap measure, not a long term coping mechanism.

The girlfriend began to feel that something wasn’t right. She didn’t know what it was, but she could tell he was cutting himself off from her and disengaging. In response, she moved further away from him. She disconnected from him entirely. Soon, no words were exchanged between them. Only silence.

They came in for counseling during this period. I talked with them about their situation. The girlfriend said she didn’t know what was happening, but she could feel him not being “present.”

Non Verbal Communication Doesn’t Let You Avoid Things, But It Communicates Less Effectively

After a lot of talk and questions the situation was finally resolved. The boyfriend wanted out. He said he was done. As you read this situation, your gut was probably telling you the same thing. He doesn’t want to be in the relationship, right? But he didn’t use his words. He used his isolating and disconnecting and avoiding behaviors to send the message.

His behavior told the girlfriend a lot of things. First, she got hurt, then she got mad, and then she got even. She might have thought to herself, “If you’re closed off to me, I’ll be closed off to you!”

Non Verbal Communication Doesn’t Get You Out of Difficult Conversations

Non verbal communication isn't a replacement for speaking.

Both were at a stalemate, unable to say the words before coming into counseling. Both were unhappy. Both wanted something better. Neither could make that happen alone.

We all do this. We all send messages to others, especially when we are upset. It would be wonderful if all of us knew what we were feeling at all times and could speak it without wondering if we were going to hurt the other person, or worrying that the other one would get angry at us for what we said. But that is now how humans operate. All of us use our behaviors to speak our difficulties. Maybe we close up and not say anything about our issues, like the boyfriend did. Maybe we yell or get angry when we get our feelings hurt. All of us do something.

Be Vocal. Relying Exclusively On Non Verbal Communication Is Less Effective

Unfortunately, our behaviors are poor communicators, compared to words. Imagine how much suffering occurred during the silent period in this couple’s life. What if the boyfriend could have said to the girlfriend, “This isn’t working. Let’s end?” It might have saved some hurt feelings. Sure, it probably would cause some too, but speaking his feelings would have also saved each of them from hours and hours of anguish.

Learn to speak YOUR truth, no matter what it is. Even if you need to leave someone you love.


Want to Move Beyond Non Verbal Communication in Your Relationship?

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'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Get a little help with voicing your needs and concerns in a positive way, by reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It just might help you communicate more clearly and directly, so that you and your partner are on the same page and able to better fulfill one another’s needs. Give it a read.

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