People often say that it’s important to communicate. Sometimes relationship help is needed.
We try, oh, do we try. Sometimes it seems as if all our communication efforts come to nothing, and we still end up with misunderstandings and even resentment and anger. It’s not that we’re not trying (well, maybe we’re not). It might be that we aren’t aware of effective relationship communication techniques. Here is a primer to effective communication, which will help you have better, more productive communication with your family and friends.
Relationship communication is more than words
Speaking is the most commonly thought of form of communication, and indeed it’s what is first noticed, but there are subtler forms of communication that go along with speaking. We can say to our spouse “I love you”, but the way the words come out, the look on our face, or the way we are holding our body, will tell our spouse much, much more about those words. When communicating, it’s important to be mindful not only of what we are saying, but how we’re saying it. Along with that goes active listening and understanding. These are the basics of good relationship communication.
The five components of good relationship communication are:
- What we say – When you are practicing good relationship communication, whether with your spouse, significant other, parent, child or friend, you must be mindful of what we are saying. Communication needs to be clean and succinct. We all have different styles. Some of us are verbose and others say very little. Either extreme might cause problems. If you have something important to say, be as specific as possible without either commanding or begging. Just say what you mean or say what you need. Always use language that is respectful to the other person.
- How it is said – Tone of voice and body language say as much as words do (if not more). With good relationship communication, your tone and body language should be open and respectful. When we begin to use threatening body language or a mean, disrespectful or threatening tone of voice, we automatically put the other person on the defensive and they are not likely to hear what we are trying to say, nor are they likely to feel inclined to react in a positive manner.
- Honesty – Sometimes it’s hard to be open and honest because we’re afraid of the reaction we’ll get. Openness and honesty are essential to good relationship communication. We have to trust the other person to receive this open and honest communication in the right spirit. Keep in mind that speaking honestly, and speaking honestly in a way that may hurt someone are two different things (if your wife asks you if she looks fat in that dress, and she does indeed does look fat in that dress, you’re better off saying “I like that dress, but the blue one is the one I really love to see you in.” – hopefully she will receive the truth graciously).
- Listening fully – If you are on the receiving end of communication, it’s your job to actively listen. If you are watching TV while your sister is trying to explain something to you that is important to her, turn the TV off, and give her your attention. You can signal that you are actively listening with eye contact, and making comments about what you are hearing. For example: Your sister is upset with her boyfriend because he forgot their one-month anniversary. As she is telling you this story, and you are actively listening, you can say, “I’m so sorry he forgot – I know how important it is to you to mark special anniversaries.” She knows you’re listening. If you want people to listen to and hear you, you have to be willing to do the same.
- Understanding – Relationship communication revolves around understanding. People can have a conversation and come away from it thinking they both understand what’s been said only to find out they have two completely differing versions. During and after an important conversation, all involved parties need time to give feedback on what they’ve heard and be able to get clarification on things if needed.
Finding relationship help through good communication habits is easy. If you are communicating effectively, you will find that your relationships are healthier, with fewer hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Use this relationship help and those bonds will flourish.