Prescott Relationship Center, PLLC

Stop the Pain and Conflict so you can feel Connected, Safe, and Appreciated in your Relationship

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Why do we communicate the way we do?

Making an appointment is easy–you can call the Northern Arizona Center for Couple and Family Therapy in Prescott at 928-420-8300.

 Why do we communicate the way we do?

Is there a reason why did God give us two ears and only one mouth?

What is “good” communication?

How can we communicate better?

Sometimes we have nothing to say to one another, what are some things we could talk about?

 There are MANY theories as to why we communicate the way we do.  The most recent and well researched theory asserts that our communication and interaction styles begin to develop very early in life and are shaped by our life experiences.  Let me provide a brief explanation of this theory.

This theory focuses on the connection between early experiences with caregivers on how we experience and express emotion throughout the lifespan.  Often it is in the expression of emotions that we have the most difficulty communicating.  As an infant, we continually monitor the accessibility of caregivers and tend to “flee” to this caregiver for safety in times of distress.  This is where the concepts of “attachment” and “secure base” come from.  It is through these attachment experiences that infants learn to cope or survive in their particular environment.  When caregivers can not or do not meet the infant’s needs, the infant’s ability to manage his or her emotions is affected.  Based somewhat on the temperament of the infant, they will tend to respond in one of two ways, by either “pursuing” or “withdrawing.”

For example, if an infant is ignored by her caregiver when she gets distressed, she may learn that by crying louder and longer (pursue), she gets the attention of a caregiver.  Unfortunately, after hearing this screaming baby, the caregiver may not respond in a very caring way.  This baby learns that, although they have to scream and holler to get attention (albeit negative), it’s better to get negative attention than no attention.  If the infant learns that, even by screaming she does not get her needs met, she may “give up” (withdraw) because she knows her efforts will be fruitless. This baby learns that it doesn’t matter what she does, her needs are not important, so why even try.  This makes it difficult for either infant to trust that others will take care of her.  This is where the terms “secure” and “insecure” attachment come from.  These tendencies/approaches to care then become a template which is then used to view others in relationships and get perpetuated through life.

Now, most of us were securely attached to our caregivers.  However, we all have the tendency to either pursue or withdraw when distressed as adults.  Sound familiar?  I bet you tend to fall into one of these categories yourself.  We all learn to interpret the interactions we had with our caregivers and apply those expectations for how we should be treated by others to relationships outside of the caregiver relationship.  You don’t have to remember these interactions for them to influence you into adulthood!! 

So consider these questions:

  • When you are in conflict with your spouse (or others in your life), do you feel like you’re pulling teeth to get them to talk (pursuer) or do you tend to avoid confrontation altogether (withdrawer)?
  • When you are angry, do you feel like crawling into a shell (withdrawer)?
  • Do you tend to be critical of others and maybe yourself as well (pursuer)?

Ultimately, pursuers “pursue” because it is the only way they know how to engage others and fear being rejected!!

Ultimately, withdrawers “withdraw” because they don’t know how to engage others and fear of appearing inadequate or incompetent!!

Here’s where it translates to your relationship: pursuers often attract withdrawers and vice versa.  Often times couples end up coping with stress or conflict in rigid ways, one will criticize/pursue in order to try to get the withdrawer to talk, and the other will hide/withdraw in order to stop the other from pursuing.  But the more one withdraws, the more the other pursues (and vice versa) and the cycle continues.

 If you are worried about your relationship with your partner, please don’t wait. Call us at 928-420-8300 to schedule an appointment today.