The Naked Convos

Talk To Me: On Relationships & Effective Communication

If I asked what you think the hardest part of being in a relationship is, I bet you’d probably mention things like staying committed, trusting your partner, not getting bored etc. Well, truth is, those things are quite difficult just like several other factors that makes being with another individual longterm incredibly hard. However, as I continue to wade my way through this pot of beans world of ours, I’m starting to arrive at the conclusion that the hardest thing to do when in a longterm relationship with another human being is…


Surprising right? I know. A part of me is still in denial too but let me state my case and then you get your chance to tell me what you think at the end.

To begin, for the sake of clarity, let us define this word “communicate”.  According to the Oxford dictionary, it means:

Share or exchange information, news, or ideas.

‘the prisoner was forbidden to communicate with his family’

(of two people) be able to share and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings.

‘we don’t seem to be communicating—we need a break from each other’

The first definition talks about the exchange of information while the second one, which focuses more on the action between two people talks about sharing and understanding each other’s thoughts and feelings.

I really like this second definition. I think it absolutely defines the word and leaves no room for ambiguities. Now that we are clear on the definition, let me ask another question. How many times has your boy/girlfriend, significant other, partner, spouse asked you this seemingly simple question: “Are you ok?” and you know for sure that the answer you gave did not capture your actual thoughts and feelings?

Before you answer that, let me just say that there are several versions of that same question. It can be any of the following:

Is everything all right with you (us)?

Are you mad at me?

Is there something I did?

Ok, so we’re starting to paint a picture now. For those who are very vocal among us, I’m sure you’re already itching to respond and say something like “but I say what’s on my mind” all the time. Yes, you’re probably correct. I know a lot of people who can’t hide their feelings. The moment they feel a certain way, they just blurt it out. But let’s remember, the word we are dealing with here is communication. Even in ‘blurting’ out how you’re feeling, your partner still needs to be able to understand your thoughts. Without this, you can’t actually say you’ve communicated with this person.

I’ve written a lot about men and our ego. I’ve also written a lot about women and emotions. These two factors which are almost always present in our day to day lives play very major roles in limiting our ability to communicate with each other. And I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that when I use the word ‘communicate’ I’m talking about the heavy stuff. Anyone can tell their partner how their day went or talk them through a new show they’re watching. But how does a guy communicate his poor sexual experience to a chic he has pursued for years? How does a chic communicate her disappointment in bed to a guy she has painted all over her social media accounts?

How does a jobless husband effectively communicate his frustration at not being able to provide for his family? How does a wife effectively communicate the constant ridicule she faces in the hands of her mother-in-law for being childless to her husband?

How do you tell your boyfriend he needs to make more money if he plans to marry you someday and how do you tell your girlfriend her cooking is terrible?

As with every other thing in life, there are several approaches to this communication thing. Many of you are experts when it comes to body language probably because we were raised with that. Growing up, your mom could stare at you five different times and you’d understand what she meant every single time. I think this approach is common with women. The occasional drawn out stare, the pout, rolling of the eyes etc.

For guys, many of us seem to think ‘not communicating’ is in fact a way to communicate. Call it the silent treatment or whatever, but I found it interesting while researching this article that a lot of guys actually do this – especially when they are mad about something, they just seem to shut down.

Those are some common ways we all communicate in our relationships. I also discovered there are some ‘not so gender specific’ but quite popular ways people in relationships communicate. One example is writing letters, notes, long text messages, emails etc. The basic idea is to pass information from A to B using some kind of medium (mostly electronic/digital nowadays).

As awesome and seemingly convenient some of these forms of communication are, the one question I want to know is, how effective are they? Go back to the examples of tough questions I gave above and tell me if you can effectively communicate any of those things using body language, silent treatment or even an email. Of those three examples, you could probably argue that one can communicate pretty much anything through an email but remember our definition of communication – sharing and understanding each other’s thoughts and feelings. I love the internet and technology but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that no amount of ‘xo xo’s” you use in an email can communicate your emotions better than real hugs and kisses.

This brings me to my point. If we all agree that the best form of communication is the physical, one on one, eyeball to eyeball, ‘talk ya own, I talk my own‘ type, why do we as Nigerians or maybe even Africans struggle with it so much – especially in our relationships.

I have a theory and I don’t know how well I can prove it but we all grew up in a society where almost all tribes have cultures that frown at speaking up. Children or younger adults are not allowed to challenge their elders even when they are obviously wrong and even among elders, when challenging another man, you are encouraged to do so “respectfully” in the corner as opposed to doing it publicly so as not to shame your fellow man. If this is our culture and our reality, how then can you find it easy to look your loved one in the eye and tell them – ‘dude, you just aint hittin’ it right!

Add this cultural issue to the other limiting factors I mentioned earlier – ego and emotions and what you have is a problem I honestly do not know where or how to start solving it. Knowing what I do now, I’ve gone over some of my past relationships and realized how much more different things could have been if one or even both of us had communicated more. And nowadays in my marriage, I still have to constantly remind myself to communicate my feelings CLEARLY whenever the need arises.

I have a no-regrets and full disclosure policy when it comes to longterm relationships and many people don’t understand why. When I discovered how important effective communication is in any relationship, I realized that every information you deliberately hold back from your partner is like an untreated wound. And you know what happens to them? The longer it stays untreated, the more it festers. And someday it’s going to stink so bad you’ll no longer be able to hide it and when it comes out, that body part would have to be amputated to save the rest of your body.

On that grim note, I’d like us to jump into the dialogue. Do you agree that communication is possibly one of the most important elements in a relationship? What about face-to-face communication for you is so easy or difficult? What are some gimmicks you’ve developed to get out of talking to your partner. Use the comment box to express you.

Unrepentant media addict.

  • Chris
    Nice article . I love it. I agree with you. Communication is the hardest part of a long term relationship and the albatross of short ones cos I believe it’s at the point that most short term relationships fail.

    One thing I’ve discovered to be a clog in the wheel of effective communication is often times we LISTEN TO REPLY rather than LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND.

    Secondly, we should learn to address issues rather than the person. This will go a long way.

    And Oh! I’m not the confrontational type so I put my thoughts in a note and pass it along. I try to describe my feelings & thoughts as much as I can and it’s been effective to a large extent.

    First time commenting first. I guess I deserve a chilled zobo.????

    October 12, 2016
      • Chris
        Thanks sire. I’ve learnt some new things myself from the post and I hope many do learn one or two things too.
        October 12, 2016
        I always say this to my man. Most times when I’m complaining it’s really not about you, it’s about the situation. I’m not a mad woman, for me to be complaining or repeating myself over and over again about a situation means there’s something not right that needs to be fixed. But most men will rather sweep things under the carpet and not want to address the issue. Where I can’t communicate and be understood I withdraw and before you know I’m bored and I’m walking again.

        Posted from TNC Mobile

        October 12, 2016
          • Girl
            You deserve an award for this statement. It is really frustrating when you’ve said something more than once to the same person and they do the same thing over again and look at you like you have some deep seated issue and can’t take a chill pill. How about look at stopping the thing that makes me switch and stop doing it mana!

            Posted from TNC Mobile

            October 12, 2016
      You nailed it. The problem most times is spouses listen to reply not listen to understand and be better with the situation being complained about. Sometimes you are tagged a nag simply because you want to communicate and get an issue sorted out and most people for fear of being named a nag hide away from communicating and that’s where the problems start off.

      Posted from TNC Mobile

      October 12, 2016
      • Chris
        One important thing to this is to know your partner well. I for one don’t like you repeating yourself about an issue. If I understood you the first time, you don’t need to repeat yourself. Just allow me time to internalize the message and you’ll see me spring into action when that happens.
        October 12, 2016
          • Chris
            Hmmmm…. that’s also true. Thanks for pointing that out cos thinking about it now, I see I falter in this aspect.
            October 12, 2016
          • Joe
            Feedback is the major problem.
            Positive or negative.
            If people apply the close loop system to relationships it will be more easier.
            October 12, 2016
  • Mo
    Great Article. The tough questions you listed are very much on point. ‘Communicating’ is hard, but I wish everyone will agree feelings are better expressed. I would love to say everything I feel but maybe it’s just what you said – our culture not encouraging us to always speak up. Keeping quiet for the sake of peace leads to untreated wounds indeed, but, not everyone gets that. I wish we all did. I hate ‘Keeping quiet’ for the sake of peace. But then what are you going to do? That’s how people will tell you it’s your mouth;being your medium of expression; that destroyed the relationship. Not ‘communicating’ is sometimes likened to ‘respect’ sef.
    October 12, 2016
  • Buchi
    Okay, I really love this. Communication amongst partners can’t be overstated in my opinion.
    However, in addition to having a partner who listens to understand, you have achieved Nirvana when you can comfortably communicate the contents of the innermost recesses of your mind (you know those things you ruminate about, containing your deepest fears, fetishes and wants, probably the ones so politically incorrect that you’d fear voicing them out) to your significant other with the assurance of a lack of judgement, only understanding, and even better, reciprocity. If you’ve found that, you’ve won in life.
    October 12, 2016
      • Buchi
        Someone should probably point out the market where those elements are sold. Or the people having those elements cos this scarcity is hard. Especially when you want the elements along with other complements in a bundle. Bundle packages seem to be in a recession.
        Also worth noting that one also has to try to attain such heights of ‘communicativeness’ in order to be of value to our significant other either now, or for people like me, in the future.
        October 12, 2016
  • Apart from not speaking up because we were told not to, most people grow up in homes where parents don’t express themselves. romantically or otherwise. (we grow up having repressive communicative skills. That’s a condition I just made up). except to you. Mum will have issues with dad but not speak up, vice versa, it will be especially obvious when they have to beat you for missing one spot on the floor you swept. You will definitely know you are taking dad’s punishment. Some people have also gotten so good at holding grudges since they were 5, that pride won’t let them be great especially in relationships, even if they do not want to lose you. Bottle it all in and watch the person walk away rather than lay it all bare. oh I rem the first time I ever had to tell my mum “I love you” I was very afraid and I had tears running down my face. You don’t throw I Love yous around in my house anyhow. I was probably 12. It was so awkward and did not happen again till..well few years ago.

    I have huge issues with communication I admit and I hope I can someday address it before I use my hand to amputate my hands and legs. Im the very very Eager to express myself type. I am incapable of telling a lie (to a large extent), I have to say things as they are, I have to say everything inside of me, but I’m afraid I never do this clearly enough to pass the main point across. worse is when I don’t want to express myself. Then I keep it in for..well..days..very horrible days of giving terrible body language, then i explode..and you would think keeping it inside will mean I have had enough time to phrase and rephrase and pass the message across properly..but nope, emotions won’t let it be great. God communication is sooooo hard! I’m just glad I have a rather matured partner who is also forgiving and sees beneath all the brash talks..if not I would be soo back to my single days by now.. but I would really want to handle things better.

    Thumbs up for this article. You should write more often on all these deep sturvs. It’s like waiting for G.O.T with you -_-.

    October 12, 2016
  • Exclusive
    You got that part right. Waiting for @thetoolsman‘s article is like waiting for a particularly promising blend of flavours. You just know you won’t be disappointed.

    I actually like face to face communication and I find I’m more easily frustrated when I have to regularly employ technology as a medium. The problem is I’m mostly tempted to go the silent treatment route because I tell myself “Hey, really now?”

    I think it’s a problem when partners have the same temperament. If you’re both of the variety of ‘I will say my own”, then there will most likely be a problem because both parties only want to be heard and are less concerned about hearing.

    There is also this tendency most of us have to absorb things into ourselves and make it a personal affront. When this happens often enough, the partner on the other side starts thinking it’s more profitable to keep quiet and let things slide, until well, everything comes unhinged.

    Communication is hard, sometimes but it’s definitely a compulsory ingredient for an healthy relationship.

    October 12, 2016
      • Exclusive
        Definitely, effective communication is the key. Just that it might be a bit “harder.”
        October 12, 2016
  • Priscilla Joy
    Hephie Brown you and I are just the same, your second paragraph describes me so well cos I more than suck at communicating especially the face to face kind, I’m so bad at it and should I share anything personal with someone just know I absolutely had to because it probably had been killing me having it bottled up for too long. I’m the girl that sends long messages and never brings it up when I do see the person because, well, he already read it so what is there to talk about? I think it’s my way of avoiding intimacy and keeping people at arm’s length, so I stay in this enclosed place with the other person standing outside looking in. at the core of communicating the deep and personal stuff with a partner is trust, trusting he won’t judge, trusting he won’t break your confidence, trusting he has your interest at heart and if it’s a habit or character one struggles with…trusting he’ll hold you accountable in a way that helps you grow not condemn you if you do make a mistake.

    Communication is very very important in relationships and i’ll so do better in my next one, no text or chat unless it’s absolutely necessary, we have to talk to about everything in person or over the phone. it’s bad enough that out there people hardly say what they mean and you have to think hard to get the point they’re trying to make, it should be such a relief to come home or meet up with your person and remove all that mask to be your true self and have an honest, open conversation, even though it’s also really hard to switch from being armored all day and learning to take it off when you’re with loved ones. I think the way we approach relationships matter as well, won’t it be better if two people make a decision from the beginning, especially when they both decide to be serious, that whatever happens they won’t walk out the door until any misunderstanding or issue is resolved and if there are heightened emotions then they both agree on a time out to cool off and come back to address the issue? if the two affirm to one another that they’re committed to eachother’s individual growth so it’s safe to make mistakes, they’re open to learning how to build a good life together and being teachable even if it means seeking outside knowledge together.

    Guys should please try and retire their ego cos it doesn’t help and the issue with bottling up emotions comes from what boys are taught being a man means

    October 12, 2016
  • Libra
    so one thing i’ve realized about relationships is that when there are issues, we rather talk about it to other people like the bestie or whoever rather than talk about it with your partner and sometimes this tends to create more problems rather than solve it because you are not giving them (your partner) the privilege (for lack of a better word) of understanding what’s going on with you. same applies to the silent treatment also. communication really is key in any relationship
    October 12, 2016
  • Ronke Adeleke
    I understand so well how important communication is. I practically studied it in school + half of my family has a communication problem, and that is minus culture, so we say what we don’t mean and don’t say what we mean. I learned a long time ago the best ways to communicate with various members of my family. With my dad, it’s letters. He’s a reader, so he keeps and re-reads them and the message sinks. My mum is a more physical and conversational person. But with the lover now, it’s a lot harder figuring out the best means of communicating. And because effective communication is not just about the sender but also the receiver, it can be very tricky. It takes a lot of learning to understand how to listen to understand and not to respond. For some partners, that’s a very difficult thing to achieve.
    October 12, 2016
  • Cavey
    Even before I knew what I know now, I always knew communication was a MAJOR key to making (any) relationship work (I even once wrote about it ). Take away communication and watch the relationship stutter and (maybe even) die. Love/Respect/’insert whatever’ MAY be the vehicle of relationships but communication is the bloody gas; without it, your relationship is going nowhere.

    Thank you, @thetoolsman for this. Thank you so much.

    October 12, 2016
  • Larz
    We all think we can communicate until we are faced with having to deliver a message that makes us look bad.
    October 12, 2016
    • Priscilla Joy
      As in…..that’s the hardest part, it’s good and well to share jist on how great you did this or responded to that but when it’s something that makes us look bad? I think it’ll help if one understands that her/his partner has one’s back no matter what, that way when there’s a screw up the person can safely say ‘oh, i messed up so much today’ while the partner listens and either helps to analyse and find a way to make it right or helps the other person not be hard on themselves. To me that is absolute bliss, a couple who has that is a couple who knows what true intimacy and vulnerability means.
      October 12, 2016
  • Chris
    Wanna ask this question on this platform since we are talking communication in relationships.

    Which is more important, what is being said or how it is said?

    October 12, 2016
    • BB
      That is a great question because I have heard people say oh “the way you said it was not good enough”. This is my opinion; I will say how you say something matters more because even if you have a good message and mean well, the way you say it can determine the outcome. For example, if you shout whenever you want to communicate, the other person may be turned off just by your voice which will distract him or her from listening or paying attention to you. You can have a very good point but say it in a terrible manner and the purpose will be defeated. So I believe each person has to learn the best ways of communicating at different times with different situations.
      October 12, 2016
  • Hmmm….I had to digest this a bit.

    I agree that communication is key; hence, the biggest problem.

    It had been my Achilles’s heel because, when I am not happy with things, I shut down. Yes, there are the stares and pouts and silent treatment but then there is worse. Before I worked on my commitment issues, a shut down used to mean an out, a reason to flirt with that other guy, a reason to leave. And I used to leave for the most stupid reason all because I couldn’t COMMUNICATE. And because when I shut down, I became completely inscrutable. All this was because I didn’t want to be perceived as weak.

    I had to grow up though. Now, when I am mad, disappointed or frustrated, I wait it out which can be frustrating (for him) because he likes to solve issues immediately.

    After constant fights and plenty drama, we created a routine. We don’t handle issues in the heat of the moment. We cool off (whom am I kidding; I cool off!) And then we talk about everything, every emotion, every hurt and then we work things out.

    Are things still hard? Yes; but not as much. Now, we can talk about everything.

    In the end, communication is super important.

    Well done @thetoolsman. This has been a very reflective read.

    October 12, 2016
  • BB
    Thanks for this article. Actually, I was having a discussion with my self this morning about communication. Personally, communication is the bedrock of any relationship, once you take it away, that’s it. The end of that relationship has come. But the sad part is, most people take it for granted and pay very little attention to it.
    October 12, 2016
  • Ray
    There are too many truths on this article. True communication is one of the most important and hardest things in a relationship tbh. Sometimes you just don’t have the right words to describe how you feel, sometimes you feel like no one can understand you no matter how much they try, sometimes you feel like you are protecting your partner from your words. Those times, it really takes a great partner to not make you feel worse after communicating with them.

    Face to face conversations are great for me except with touchy or very sensitive topics with the partner. Small talk ehn, and the tears will just come. It’s tiring.

    October 12, 2016
  • Miss N
    Great article on communication. Tbh, I never knew how to communicate so much especially with my choice of words & being diplomatic until well into my 20s. … I’m learning great & becoming even cautious by the day. It has been a painstaking experience however a reminder of being a work in progress. Thumbs up
    October 12, 2016
  • Theá
    Nice article @thetoolsman. I agree with every single point stated here. I also agree that communication is the most important foundation of any relationship, not just romantic or sexual, but even platonic and also in business. I have watched a lack of proper communication break down relationships that may have started out well.

    Your definition is also spot on:

    “our definition of communication – sharing and understanding each other’s thoughts and feelings.”

    In my own experience, my biggest deal breaker with my ex was a communication gap. It is the reason we had to end things. I did not feel like we had mastered at least a way to talk to and undertsand each other after 2 years of being together. We were hardly ever on the same page, no matter how hard we tried.

    My current relationship is doing far better mainly because we communicate extremely well. We seem to be able to share and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings objectively, whether negative ones or positive ones. And that has been a great driving force. When we disagree, 90% of the time, we talk it out rather than yell and fight and be misunderstood.

    If more couples can build a strong foundation as to how best to communicate thoughts and feelings in a way that the other person fully understands where they are coming from, I believe more relationships will go a long way.

    October 12, 2016
  • fayte
    Communication….IT takes conscious effort to do it right. It takes time to master the art. If both sides aren’t working together to communicate well,one person’s attitude can utterly frustrate another’s effort. It takes two real, naked people to communicate. It may not always be smooth but they can go over issues and actually accept the truth and their faults. Communication requires a lot of personal work first. Communication is… Bae
    October 12, 2016
  • Toni
    Interesting article. The subject is so fundamental yet often overlooked, judging by the state of many relationships today and even some of the comments.

    The way your partner RELATES with you is based primarily on what you “say” through words and actions, the way you reveal your personality to them. So, it goes to reason that your RELATIONSHIP is grounded completely in your exchange of words and actions, your communication! An inability to communicate clearly and completely is almost certain to result in disaster in most relationships. It is concerning that we don’t teach young people early enough how to communicate properly.

    My work as a consultant has me teaching communication skills to corporate bodies and other professionals, also certain individuals on occasion, and I’m constantly shocked at the low level of proficiency of the average adult! I’ve met CEOs who can’t seem to connect with staff and assume the staff are either lazy, stupid, or disobedient, whereas the staff see the boss as impossible to please because they never know what she truly wants them to do despite her telling them. And both parties would tell you they’ve repeatedly COMMUNICATED but the other party just doesn’t get it. If your message isn’t understood, you have the larger portion of the problem to handle, not the other way around. I only imagine what the homes of such people would be like.

    A simple experiment we carry out in every of our sessions reveals to our participants they usually have low communicative ability and by the end of the day many find ways to improve. Some of those ways include: listening without bias (not reading extra meaning into words), understanding that the other person has a drastically different perspective from you and may not understand as readily as you think he should (in other words, put yourself in their shoes and try to explain as simply as possible), minimize the level of emotional tint in your words (not that emotions are bad, but they generally can mislead one to over-emphasise otherwise trivial matters), be emotionally intelligent and package your message in a way your partner would be receptive towards (remember when our mothers would serve our dads’ dinners before asking for something really big or important?). Of course this list isn’t exhaustive and not all points would work in all situations, but the awareness of the necessity to not just say it as it is, in the same ways you’ve always been saying it, is a step towards reducing much of the tension in relationships.

    Posted from TNC Mobile

    October 14, 2016
  • I am bad at talking about how I feel. I just will not say it because I do not want to be weak or vulnerable. I feel like if i say how I feel, I have lost something. Its ridiculous. I blame my parents for that. I grew up in a household where I have never seen my parents say “I love you” to one another. I have never said those words to my mother as well, or my twin sister or my other siblings, even though I love them with all my heart. I have never heard those words from my family as well, and I know they love me. Imagine how difficult it was for me to say it when I was in a relationship. He was frustrated, but I just couldn’t say it. The words would not come out. I didn’t get why he wanted to hear those words.
    I am learning. I understand that nobody is a mind reader. I need to talk.
    Thanks for this article.
    October 27, 2016
  • Anonymous
    I have been married for 4 years now with a kid , my husband is 10 years older but trust me he looks like he’s just a year older than me . I have issues communicating with him not because he doesn’t understand, we are both in the media industry , we even run some entertainment jobs together, we club together , he has lots of artiste friends so we visit together, travel abroad for concerts . Whenever I want to talk to him I feel like he might shut me down but never has he done that, I am too respectful , I can’t even call him by name so I call him Sugar , I call him ‘è’ when we talk in Yoruba. I think the problem is we dint court for a long time before marriage and we probably were not friends so I am not really free with him. Now I don’t know where to start
    December 6, 2016
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