Monologues and Dialogues - Breakdowns in Communication
Our investigation here will highlight some common causes for breakdowns in communication:
- Conversations that are really monologues (next article) - and thus don't share energy
- Failure to express real feelings, resulting in dishonesty and nonassertiveness (see 9.17M9.5)
- Inflexibility, which shows up in absolutes and generalizations (see 9.23M9.6)
- Failure to listen (see 9.31M9.9)
- Manipulative communication (sometimes called game playing") - another form of dishonest communication (see 9.35M9.10)
We will look at the connection between breakdowns in communication and the potential for illness, and we'll explore ways of using communication in the service of wellness.
Communication Theory: I know you believe you understand what you think I said. But I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. —Anonymous
When a character in a play delivers a monologue, it generally serves an important purpose. When two people carry on a simultaneous monologue with each other, or when one person speaks only about himself without ever inviting interaction with the other, very little communication happens. With the simultaneous monologue, I talk about what interests or involves me, while you talk about what interests and involves you. Neither of us really hears the other, so we may each start talking louder, interrupting more, or trying to bring the focus of attention back to ourselves. When this has gone on for a short time, and nobody is truly satisfied, we often give up on conversation altogether and turn on the TV, or suggest going out for a drink. Anything to change the energy or the environment.
Here's a typical simultaneous monologue:
A: "I just got back from the doctor's."
B: "Oh, is everything OK? I have to see my doctor soon too, but I'm not looking forward to it."
A: "Yeah, well, I need to get my prescription changed and he says I have to cut out caffeine."
B: "I could never do that. If I don't have my morning coffee I'm hell to live with."
A: "I've tried herb tea, but I don't like it."
B: "Did you see where that new company just started making green tea ice cream?"
An image this might evoke is that of a couple running toward each other with outstretched arms and longing looks, and then tripping as they run right past each other.
Despite all that we have in common, time and time again we fail to really meet each other. We may spend an evening, a bus ride, or our whole lives together, and never achieve common ground. These unsatisfying relationships lack the energy needed for life and health. They create boredom and joylessness. We leave them with our needs for intimacy, for caring, unmet. As a last resort in our attempts to make these relationships work, some of us even use sickness - because illness demands a response.