Communication Styles and the Family

We talked in the last posting about the two communication styles that are basically a result of our DNA.  One is the inferential; the other the literal.  Let’s look at an example:


My wife is inferential in her style.  I say I’m literal in my style.  So I say to my wife, “Do you want to go out to eat?”  She says to me “No–”  Since I am listening with literal ears, I hear her “NO–” as “NO.”   That’s “no” with a period.  I go off to do something and soon I hear pans banging and cupboard slamming.  So I return to the kitchen and ask, “What’s the matter?”


She says, “I wanted to go out to eat.”  My retort is, “But you said ‘No.”  And she comes back with “you should always know that when I say ‘no’ I mean ‘no but.’”  So I respond, “No but what?”  She answers, “No, but I don’t know where to go.”  So I say back, “So you just meant you didn’t know where to go?”  “No,” she says, “I think we have also spent too much this week eating out.”  I ask the question, “So if we have enough money, and you know where to go, then you want to eat out?”  And she responds, “No, I need to check if our married kids are going to stop over.”  Now I am frustrated, so I ask, “Why didn’t you just say all that?”


And she replies, “I didn’t know all that until you took me at my word!”  Her “no” had a dash after it, and I had erased the dash and put in a period.  And every time I do that with my inferential wife, I miss the point.


Now let’s turn it around.  Let’s say she asks me if I want to go out to eat.  I say “No” with a period.  But she erases my period and puts in a dash and believes that my “no” cannot simply be a “no.”  So she comes back to me and recommends a new restaurant.  Then she finds some extra money and wonders it that makes a difference.  \ I finally have to say to her, “Why can’t my ‘no” just be “no”?  See, she may add to my “no” when there is nothing to add–I really meant “no.”  Her “no” is always a “no but.”  My “no” is simply “no.”


Look what happens with children.  I tell my literal son to clean his room.  He is a literal communicator.  So he cleans his room and throws everything into his closet.   When I see the shape of his closet, I confront him and he points out that his room is clean!  “But what about the closet?” I ask.  And he reminds me that I didn’t say “clean your room and your closet.”


Or take the inferential child.  A literal parent can suggest, “You need to clean your room.”  And the inferential kids will go to their room and start to clean.  They will straighten up a few thing, and then they find something they are interested in and forget the room.


I remember when our very literal child asked my inferential wife something and she started to give him a story, thinking he wanted more information.  Finally in frustration he said, “All I wanted was a yes or no.” and he left the room.

Do you have children?  This communication style usually shows up in early adolescence.  Do you think they are literal or inferential?  How about your spouse, or your parents?

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5 Responses to Communication Styles and the Family

  1. Zulqarnain says:

    Me, My Son and My One Daughter is Literal and My Second Daughter is Inferential. I think that Literal People suffers more then the Inferential People. As it becomes heavy and difficult when you have to process each thought in your mind deeply and on other hand Inferential People can be distracted easily from their thoughts.

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