I received an email recently about communication in personal relationships. The writer asked: "Why is communication important in a relationship?
Is it the most important part of a relationship?" First, let's agree that when we use the word communication we are referring to both verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal and nonverbal language is an essential element for committed romantic relationships, friendships, business relationships, and virtually all other kinds of relationships.
We depend on making ourselves understood to convey our wants and needs, likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings -- and to make requests of others. We communicate non-verbally with our faces and our bodies. For example, when we are listening, we might tilt our heads a bit or lean toward the speaker. The speaker would likely perceive us to be interested and listening attentively.
Conversely, if we fidget, sigh, roll our eyes, or make any of a number of faces with our mouths and lips (you know what I mean!), we could be accurately perceived by the speaker as being in disagreement, contemptuous, critical, disapproving, etc.
We communicate verbally with the words we choose, with inflection, pitch, decibel level, and cadence. And make no mistake: A speaker's attitude comes across loud and clear when he or she speaks.
Here are seven simple and easy tips for communicating more effectively in a relationship:
1. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
2. Do what you say and say what you do.
3. Your thoughts and feelings, needs and wants, likes and dislikes are valid and legitimate. It is your job to own your internal experience. That means identify what is going on for you inside yourself and find the courage to express it. Ownership implies that you know and believe that you are okay with who you are, and how you experience and react to your inside and outside worlds. Other people do not have to understand or agree in order for your experiences to be valid, legitimate, and respected. This is about you!
4. Other people's feelings are also legit. Just as your thoughts and feelings, needs and wants, likes and dislikes, and internal experiences are valid and legitimate, so are those of others. You may or may not understand. Please, respect their experience(s). Your response? Agree to disagree. Accept without agreeing. This is about them! This is not about you.
5. Pay attention to needs. When a need is unmet, it becomes an issue. We have many opportunities to experience and express issues in our relationships. Common ways to respond, although unproductive and harmful, are to complain, blame, and criticize. Next time you experience an issue, try making a request. Identify what you need or want, or what you want someone to do or say differently, then make a request. Focus on what you want to happen, instead of what isn't happening or what happened that you didn't like.
6. Learn to tell your whole truth. Notice I didn't say THE truth. Your truth is your recognition of what you are experiencing inside yourself and outside of yourself at any given moment. If you are experiencing an upset or a disappointment, you may know or understand less about what you are experiencing than at other times. Find the courage to say as much as you can about what you think, feel, need, and want. When you have more clarity or additional knowing, be sure to share them with you partner.
7. Be a good listener. Listening is an essential and valuable skill. Becoming a good listener takes time and practice and is enormously appreciated by others. When you are engaged in a meaningful conversation, say to your partner, "Tell me more." This is a special invitation that conveys your interest and intention to listen and really know them and understand the issue.
Communication is one of the essential parts of creating rich, meaningful relationships. Communicating verbally and nonverbally in a kind, responsible, and respectful way furthers understanding and increases intimacy and trust.
Remember, only YOU can make it happen!
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