Good communication is central to developing strong relationships with partners, children and work colleagues. The more we can understand the barriers to communication that we can unknowingly put between us and other people, the more we may be able to limit their negative impact.
Are barriers to communication stopping you from developing better relationships?
- Are they limiting your creativity?
- Your career potential?
- Are you struggling to communicate effectively?
Taboos, secrets and lies – barriers to communication
Do you feel that some subjects are off limits and shouldn’t be talked about?
For reasons that may be long standing and obscure, we can feel inhibited when it comes to talking about ourselves. We can find it hard to speak honestly about how we feel about things, or what our experiences are like.
If you grew up in a family in which speaking openly was difficult, restricted or even felt off limits, then it is possible that this will have caused problems for you. We tend to internalise the attitudes we grow up with.
Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis and Barriers to Communication
Kafka had a very difficult relationship with his father. He struggled for acceptance and lived in the shadow of his father’s domineering personality. This barrier to communication became a feature of much of Kafka’s work. We see it in The Trial and in Metamorphosis.
In Kafka’s fiction characters are presented with situations and information that is impenetrable. They are alienated. Communication is impossible in the face of cruel physical transformation or an obstructive faceless state. Kafka’s characters are left with an acute sense of blame, shame and guilt, and with little that they can do about it.
If your parents and family were uncomfortable about speaking openly about things then it is probable you may struggle too. This is often the root of our barriers to communication in later life.
How do we come to recognise and break the hold that these old barriers to communication have on us?
One of the features of psychotherapy is that it provides a confidential therapeutic relationship in which you can talk freely about the things you might otherwise feel uncomfortable speaking about.
One benefit of psychotherapy is that it helps you to build up a better picture of the internalised rules, limits and barriers to communication that hold you back. These are hard to identify or work on alone.
Psychotherapy is a working relationship through which your communication barriers can be identified and modified.
If your early life was complicated and you grew up in an atmosphere in which you felt you had to be careful about what you revealed about yourself. If you worried that saying the wrong might have bad consequences for you or for your friends or family your natural capacity to communicate openly and freely will probably have suffered.
Children who grow up in situations like this learn to be guarded
Speaking freely doesn’t come naturally to them. If you are lucky there will have been adults around you who will have noticed your struggle and will have been there to help. If not the problems will have continued to develop.
Traumatic experiences create barriers to communication
- Childhood traumas
- Abusive relationships
- Experiences that have overwhelmed you
Traumatic events overwhelm us. We don’t know how to speak about them and we can get trapped within ourselves with the secrecy, shame, blame and guilt of the experience.
If you have lived through traumatic events it may be helpful to speak about what happened. This helps to process the experience and stops it from becoming an ongoing barrier to communication.
Lying and telling lies – a barrier to communication
Lying is a complicated action. It requires great creativity to invent a story and to memorise the details. The truth is simple because it doesn’t need to be remembered in the same way as a lie does. Generally lying is frowned upon. Typically a child who is identified as a liar is seen as a bad child. The lies are seen as a sign that there is something wrong with the child.
This is much too simplistic
Generally, children who lie do so not because they are bad but because there is something wrong. Such children need attention not condemnation. But such attention can be hard to find. It is difficult work too. Somehow a relationship of trust has to be established in which it becomes possible for the child to step back from lying and reveal some of the forces, and experiences that are pushing their behaviour is this direction.
Barriers to communication – lying as a defence
The child has learned that being open, or letting their guard down can have serious consequences. However, through careful, sensitive and appropriate relating it may become possible to remove this barrier to communication and as this happens the need to lie is reduced.
Once the child has found their way back to telling the truth they will probably feel a sense of relief. They can relax, the barrier to communication drops and their capacity to create, play and be spontaneous improves. These are all markers of good psychological health.
The earlier you can get to these problems the better. In an ideal world a child who lies would be seen as a child with a problem that needs attention. Often such help doesn’t arrive. The child grows into an adult who has built up habits that are barriers to communication.
In adults this can lead to complicated problems in relationships and in work. At first glance such an adult may appear charming, creative and different. But in the longer term what you first saw as charming originality may turn out to be a very complicated partner. Lying is often one of the characteristics of narcissistic personalities. People who have these styles, and tendencies tend to be like Peter Pan. They have no shadow. They are trapped in a kind of perpetual adolescence. They cannot sustain and develop open ways of relating.
Helping an adult to come to terms with these sides of themselves can be difficult. The client maintains their barriers to communication. They are habits that have built up over a lifetime. These barriers to communication can be removed, but it will probably take time and commitment.
Having the chance to speak in a confidential setting may help unlock your barriers to communication. Out of this you may be able to develop a clearer understanding of how your problems have developed, and of what you can do to change the way your life moves forwards.
- Out of these beginnings, psychotherapy and counselling may be the starting point to opening up new possibilities for living.
Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.