College of LAS « Illinois

Communication

True Feelings

At some point, taking a chance on love means confiding your real feelings.

feelings photo

You’ve just started dating someone and things are going well. On one hand, you think, this person could be The One. On the other hand, you don’t know how your partner feels, so you are reluctant to bring up the topic at all for fear of jeopardizing the relationship.

Sound like a scene from a Woody Allen movie? Actually, it’s a surprisingly familiar scenario in the beginning stages of relationships. In a study conducted among U of I undergraduates, Leanne Knobloch, an LAS assistant professor of speech communication, found that many people would rather keep silent than talk with their partner about how things were progressing in the relationship.

Knobloch calls this tendency topic avoidance. In her study, she discovered that those who were most uncertain about a relationship also reported the most topic avoidance. “They are strategically avoiding information that might clarify things,” Knobloch says.

Topic avoidance is a way to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety of not knowing how your partner feels, she says. But in order to transition from casual dating to a serious dating relationship, a couple eventually needs to confide their true feelings. Once they do so, if they discover that they’re on the same page, then uncertainty and anxiety subside and the relationship develops. “Now they feel much more free to talk about topics that they had previously avoided,” Knobloch says.

Winter 2008