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What to Do When Communication Fails

by Greg Baker  
6/10/2010 / Relationships

Technically, communication never fails. People fail. If someone is ignoring you or your problem, there may be deeper complications than communication. If you've tried to talk to them about a situation and got nowhere, you may want to consider these options:


Interestingly enough, a letter is a compelling thing to most people. Most people will read a letter all the way through even if the letter is very negative. The wonderful thing about a letter is that it can't be interrupted, you can consider each phrase and sentence, you can't have your train of thought derailed, and it allows you to sleep on it before delivering it.

There are two ways you can write the letter. You may want to write both of them and compare the two.

First, write it to the person directly explaining the problem or situation, and your feelings, concerns, and worries. Focus on your fears, not on your anger and frustration. Ask them to help you.

Second, write a letter as if you're writing it to someone who knows nothing of your problem or situation and you're asking them for advice. This will force you to be clear in your word use and thinking. It'll help you organize your thoughts and feelings.

Then, you may even want to write a combination of the two as a final draft. In some cases your first or second one will be the best one. You may want to show the person the letter you wrote to this fictional counselor to help them understand the situation and your feelings.


Bluntness is something that should be done as almost a last resort. I use it only when I feel I must get someone's attention or shake them loose from their lethargic attitude. It's not a last resort, but it comes close.

I recommend that you preface this with a warning that you intend to be blunt. You may want to say that you feel at the end of your rope, that you're goal isn't to hurt him or her, but to fix the problem. Tell them that you are just going to blurt it out, but to bear with you if you don't say it quite right. Ask them to hear you all the way out without interrupting. Tell them that you want their help.


I'm a Christian, and I read in the Scriptures that if someone will not hear you, then you ought to involve a third party (Matthew 18:15-17).

Try to make it someone that would be neutral to the problem or situation. If the other person feels like you are ganging up on him or her, they may retaliate. The best solution would be to find someone that you both trust to get involved. You may have to bring them into the problem and situation.

Often, the job of this third person isn't so much to provide a solution as it is to get the other person to listen to your feelings and concerns.


If you actually reach this point, you have a massive problem in your relationship. It'd say it's in nuclear meltdown. Now, if the problem is minor, then just live with it. Many things we can live with that are merely irritating or somewhat bothersome.

Don't let a little thing destroy a relationship.

But if the problem is beyond irritation, more volcanic, and you've tried everything else you can think of, there is one more thing you could try. But be warned, it could cause even greater problems, even more pain and guilt.

Shut down.

I mean cease to function. Stop going to work, stop cooking, stop cleaning, stop taking care of yourself, stop talking, stop reacting-stop everything that involves you in the other person's life.

The purpose of this is to get the other person's attention. When they say something about it, which they are bound to do, tell them it is because of the problem they aren't willing to deal with or talk to you about. Ask him or her if he or she is now willing to talk about it.

This is a deadly course of action and is a last resort. If you pull this often, it'll tear your relationships apart. You must keep in mind why you are doing this. It is not for revenge, it is to get the other person's attention. You need to state that too. You have to communicate the reason and purpose for your actions.

As soon as you are heard out, reverse the shut down process.

I rarely, if ever, recommend such a course of action. It may have fatal or unusual consequences. Try the other ones several times before resorting to this one.

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