Barriers to Effective Speaking

Many barriers block effective speech.

The “solution sender” weights down his speech with orders, directions, and command. “Get over here.” “Hang up your clothes.” “Hurry up.” Warnings and threats comprise more solutions. “If you ever do that again, I’ll…” Another is moralizing. “Don’t you know enough not to …” Most of us resent being told we must, should, or better do something.

Many of us resort to “put-downs” in spite of the fact that we know what it feels like to be put down. Put-downs judge, criticize, and blame: “that’s not a bad idea, considering you thought of it.” They name call, ridicule, and shame” “You’re a slob.” They name interpret, diagnose, and psychoanalyze: “You only say that because…” They attempt to teach and instruct: “Honey, we shouldn’t leave our towels on the floor.”

Dr. James Dobson tells of a game husband and wives play. He calls it Assassinate the Spouse. In this destructive game the player (usually a husband, he notes) attempts to punish his wife by ridiculing and embarrassing her in front of their friends. He can hurt her when they are alone, but in front of friends he can really cut her down. If he wants to be exceptionally cruel, he’ll let the guest know how stupid and ugly she is—the two aspects where she is the most vulnerable. Bonus points are awarded if he can reduce her to tears.

Then there is the “corrector.” For example, while the husband tells a story to friends, his wife helps him keep the facts straight.

“We left on Sunday night…”

“Oh, honey, I think it was Thursday night just before the holiday.”

“Ok, we left Thursday right after the kids got home from school”

“No, dear, it was late that evening when we got away. Remember, the kids came home and we had a big supper before we left.”

“Well, anyway, we left and drove straight to Los Angeles, and…”

“Honey, are you sure we went there first? I thought we…”

A corrector has a compulsion to concentrate on proper reporting. Such remarks are often attempts to draw attention to self, and they show a lack of sensitivity in allowing someone else to tell a story the way he perceives and remembers it.

The “Judge” tries to second-guess what will come next. A wife might say, “They are having a really good movie at the church Wednesday night.

Her husband doesn’t wait to see what point she is going to make, but he cuts her off with, “Yes, we’re not going.”

The “monologuer” has a compulsive need to talk and frequently insists on having the last word. He can’t bear to be corrected, and so he maintains a know-it all attitude. Often monologuers have a desperate need to be popular, but the more they monopolize conversations, the more they bore others and cut themselves off from forming close attachments.

The “silent treatment” uses silence as a weapon or a form of control. Both husband and wives use it, but usually in different ways. When a man is silent, strong emotions such as fear or anger are building up inside. A woman usually uses silence to get even for some injustice done to her or when she reaches the stage of total despair and desperation. The silent treatment may be given because one refused to listen last time, or the silent one may be suffering from a deep hurt. Some Christians feel that it isn’t right to say what they think. Others resort to silence for the children’s sake. But this bottling of emotion takes its toll physically, mentally, and spiritually.

The “silent husband,” according to some marriage counselors, lies behind one half of all the troubled marriages they encounter. Many women complain that their husbands don’t talk to them and cannot be prodded into it. The husband communicates primarily on the “small talk” or “factual” level.

Several attitudes account for male silence. Some men, particularly workaholics, consider little in life but productivity to be of value. Their answer to all of life’s problems is action, not talk. Other men are so dogmatic and authoritarian that thy refuse to speak further on a subject once they have handed down an edict. Still others detest discussing what they term “trivia.”

When a woman experiences a problem or feels strong emotion she wants to talk and let her feelings out. A man under the stress of emotion usually clams up, closes the gate, and retreats within himself because he had been trained since birth to keep tight control on his emotions. He will cut himself off from anything that differs from the logical and detached way of life to which he has become accustomed. And as he grows older he grows tougher so that his peers won’t detect any sign of softness or emotion.

Whenever feelings well up within him, a man’s automatic response is to turn them off, especially in the presence of a woman. If he gets angry and lashes out at her, he isn’t a gentleman. If he cries, it is a sign of weakness. Consequently he uses silence as a method of escaping from his feelings, failing to understand how this maddens his wife when her aim is to get it all out in the open.

However, few men really want to remain silent. Most every man likes to talk as much as his wife, although usually about different types of things. But chiding or needling will drive even the best-intentioned man to withdraw even further. He wants and needs a companion with who he feels secure and safe from ridicule. A man will respond to woman he trusts.

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