“What We Got Here Is Failure To Communicate”

Cool Hand Luke

Strother Martin,  playing a prison warden talking to a stubborn prisoner Paul Newman in the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke”.

Let me give you more context:

Captain: You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while Luke. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.

Luke: I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.

Captain: Don’t you ever talk that way to me. (pause, then hitting him) NEVER! NEVER! (Luke rolls down hill; to other prisoners) What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.

This is one of the most quoted lines in American film.  In fact it ranks 11th in the American Film Institute’s top 100 most popular film quotes.

Why would I open with this?

This week Dr. Chapman will be discussing “When Love Seems Distant” in Chapter 9.    What can we do to keep those “failures to communicate” to a minimum?

Let’s create a scenario:  one person is trying to send a message from their mind to the mind of another.   The message is appreciation, respect, caring, maybe love.

Let’s keep the scenario simple.  The sender intends the message to go to the receiver with no problems.


Problems do occur.

One of the most common problems we have seen is “crossed” communication line between people who don’t speak the same love language.

Say the sender is a “words of affirmation” person.

The receiver is an “acts of service” person.

What type of love language will the words of affirmation person likely use?  Words of affirmation.

That’s only natural.

How will those words of affirmation be received by the act of service receiver?  Maybe they won’t be received very well.  After all, they won’t do much to fill the “love tank” of the receiver.

What needs to be done?

Accommodation [also known as giving the other person what they want, being flexible, trying new skills etc].

In my humble opinion, accommodation is the linchpin of successful marriages.

Two people just don’t fit together perfectly…ever.  Yes I said it.  Two people never fit together perfectly.

Successful relationships are about the give and take of accommodation.  “Sender” needs to accommodate to “receiver” and learn to do acts of service.  “Receiver” needs to accommodate to sender and learn to appreciate love language efforts even when they are not the preferred love language.

The scenario flips.  Receiver needs to learn to affirm even though that is not their preferred language.  Sender needs to appreciate acts of service efforts when they would prefer words of affirmation.


Yes folks, in today’s world, it goes both ways.   The days of a woman accommodating to a man’s needs are gone.  Men need to learn to accommodate to the needs of a woman too.

Chapter 9 is going to throw another key element into the mix besides accommodation.  Dr. Chapman is going to recommend discipline.  I would add focus.

What do you want?

Do you want relationships that work?

Do you want relationships that last?

Do you want relationships that are fun and enjoyable?

Get focused and get disciplined.

Make yourself try to do things that are not natural because there will be a payoff.

A “words of affirmation” sender needs to make an effort to clean out a junk drawer, take out the trash [unasked], make up a bed, hold open a door, cook a meal, hold open an umbrella on a rain-soaked day or let someone out of the car close to a door while they go and park the car.  What will happen?  The acts of service receiver will like it.

Accommodation + Discipline = Appreciation, Respect, Caring, maybe Love.

In communication, we overanalyze.  We make things too complex.  Is it really that hard to make the effort to learn a new love language?

What is your goal?

That should be your focus.

Discipline can get you acting in new ways.

Too often we just throw up our hands and we live with what life gives us and maybe what life is giving you is pretty mediocre.  Relationships deserve better than mediocre efforts.

None of us want someone standing over us declaring,  “What we got here is failure to communicate.”

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