Communication is one of those topics that many may understand, but rarely practiced well. I often ask couples to describe what it takes to communicate effectively and I generally hear very similar things. Listening is nearly always listed as one of the top skills for effective communication. While some clients look at me with a blank stare and say something like, ‘thats why we are here to see you!’, others have a general good understanding of communication. I had one couple in my office who articulated it very well and clearly, probably better than most. Still others say they have taken communication classes within their work environment, yet their communication at home is still not going well.
Communication is one of those topics that many may understand, but rarely practiced well.
It is funny how we might have a ‘good idea’ of how to do something, but not do well when it comes to personal application and putting it into practice. Communication is one of those topics that is easier to talk about, than to put into practice. That one couple who so eloquently defined communication, ironically went right into a pretty intense argument shortly afterwards. I have noticed some similar patterns in my own communication as I hear the stories of the couples I am working with. I hear a lot of blame, criticism, hurtful words, defensiveness, and even a complete shut down at times. Emotions often run wild, even during what should be basic inquiries. Emotions can and will get in the way to distort the initial point of the conversation to begin with.
Although most couples say listening is important, I quickly realize the pattern in which couples (including my own relationship) listen only to come up with some sort of response. This might come in the form of a ‘…but’ statement or an immediate show of their own opinion, etc. Why do we do this? Do we want to be right? Are we hoping to make the other person recoil as we throw hurtful words their way? Do we want to lighten the mood of an emotional situation by showing how funny we can be with a sarcastic or quick witted answer?
Instead of listening to respond or listening to win an argument, why can’t we listen to understand? Countless wives and mothers simply want to know that their husband or child hear them and understands their perspective. Husbands grow tired of the critical and harsh words and simply want their wives to respect their point of view (respect does not mean agree) instead of ‘nagging’ them. I have come to understand most of us are OK with disagreeing and seeing things differently, as long as we feel the other person truly understands us. Offering empathy and understanding is absolutely essential in good communication. It is then, and only then that the conversation can go to the next level to figure out how to proceed.
Offering empathy and understanding is absolutely essential in good communication.
So, here is my challenge for you this week to revolutionize your communication ...
Become more aware of how often you ‘listen to respond’ and instead transition to ‘listening to understand’.
Stop, listen to key words, pay attention to the emotional driving force behind their words and restate what you heard the other person just say.
When you can slow down and step back you will begin to watch the conversation change almost immediately