Communication is the key to outstanding relationships, right?
Yet, most of us don’t know how to communicate effectively.
“Communication works for those who work at it” – J Powell
But first, let’s look at what communication is.
Communication is the act of transferring information. In reality, it is not so simple because there are structures to language we use and there are different styles of communication.
Have you ever noticed how people delete and distort information, and generalise about things when they are talking?
For example, words like “always” and “never” are strong generalisations. The next time you catch yourself using them, ask: “Really? Is he *always* busy?”
The answer will surprise you. Of course, he’s not always busy!
So why do we succumb to distorting, deleting and generalising information.
Because, it is part of our Meta Program; it’s how our minds filters information and creates our perception and beliefs.
All relationships have their own set of communication challenges. It’s therefore most important to upskill yourself to have a successful relationship.
Mistake #1 Listening with judgement or assumptions.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph G. Nichols
At any given time, we have various thoughts racing in our heads.
Think about the last time you spoke to your partner – chances are you were so preoccupied with your thougths that you were hardly listening.
Similarly, when you listen with judgement, you are usually not interested in what they have to say. You are not interested in them.
Everything becomes about us; we know better and so we switch off from truly listening to their needs and wants.
When we listen with assumption, we put our meaning of what is said through our own filter of assumption. We miss what our partner is really saying.
Mistake #2 Fighting instead of learning to argue properly
“That’s the beauty of argument, if you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.” – Christopher Buckley
Fighting gets you nowhere.
Couples fight because they are upset or disappointed about something. They are sad, angry or frustrated and it gets hard to communicate effectively.
Unnecessary words are said and ill-feeling takes over. It becomes difficult to forgive and forget. When this behaviour persists, relationships break up.
Fighting begins when we have doubts about where we stand with each other; when our integrity is threatened; when we are entrenched in our own opinions and feel the need to defend our point of view. It also begins out of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
You can avoid fighting and killing each other if you learn to argue properly.
You can agree to disagree – you will always have different opinion and that can be a good thing. Life will be boring if you both were the same!
Focus on the facts and the truth – certain things will be as they are so there is no point in creating tension, friction and disappointment.
Make effort to come to a resolution – do not let a problem simmer to a stage that it blows up. Resolve your issues amicably.
Be aware of your language – Take care about what you say and how you say it. Words carry meaning and energy so choose positive and uplifting words. Keep away from demeaning language.
Focus on outcome – having an agreed intention for your conversation will help you communicate better.
Ask the right questions – ensure they are authentic and that you asking because you care.
Mistake #3 Withdrawing from speaking up
“If there was any great lesson in life it was this: No battle was ever won with silence.” – Shannon L. Alder
If you feel hurt and uncertain how to deal with an issue, it pushes you to withdraw. This is called passive aggression and can be very destructive to both parties.
It may help you diffuse the situation on hand but the issue does not disappear. It will linger making you deeply unhappy and frustrated.
Your inner feelings and thoughts have great influence on your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-belief. No matter how difficult it may seem, keep the conversations going.
Tell your partner how you feel; share what made you feel let down. Without speaking up, he may not “get” you, or he may be too busy to notice your feelings or dismiss them as trivial.
Communication is the life-force of relationships.
Being silent is still communicating – it’s communicating by default. It’s out of your control and your partner will perceive it from their filters of understanding.
It is much better to have a go; at least you have put it all out for him to respond. Practise on being precise, objective, and straightforward.
Again, listen and argue properly. As you begin to overcome your challenges of speaking up and clarifying what you want, you will strengthen your relationship.
Now, share this with you significant partner and support each other for a more effective and empowering communication!
Flickr Creative Commons Images via dr_zoldberg (adapted)