Improve Your Relationships - Enhance Your Ability to Communicate
More than eighty per cent(86% in U.S.)of marriage break-ups are the result of communication issues? Whether the issue is the inability to verbalise thoughts or ideas, feelings, opinions/concerns in a or whether they are unable to listen with attention, the outcome of those situations is often criticism, judgments, physical withdrawal or isolation and the partners feel misunderstood and lonely.
Communication is like the air we breathe...we can't do without it. The messages we transfer can either be verbal or non verbal (through behavior), but in whatever form it may be, communication is like a bridge between two individuals...or a boat leading towards an isolated island in the middle of the sea. Communication is a hand offered to another to pull the other out of its situation of isolation...
DEFINITION OF COMMUNICATION:
Effective communication is not a natural gift; it requires much more than just good will and openness. It also requires the following skills:
to accurately verbalise thoughts and feelings with clarity and with respect to your partner
the ability to authenticate(confirm what you have understood about the message received; to clarify)
To detect interferences (barriers) that can get in the way of the dialogue and confuse or create misunderstanding of the message received and transferred.
A picture is worth a thousand words and to illustrate this I would like you to take a few minutes, click on the following link and read the short story:
The Blind Men and the ElephantThey sat for hours and argued...each one was sure that his view was correct... Doesn't that sound familiar! This is the barrier (or an interference) of perception! Now, don't get me wrong...There is nothing wrong with personal interpretation of a situation or a concern...whatever they may be! The problem here, attitude! Each one was sure...that their view was correct-(true in a sense but incomplete) For as much as we may smile and consider the lesson evident in this story, this is what we do when we argue to defend what we believe to be right.
When we refuse to consider the perception of our partners we stick to our vision of a definition on an elephant! Remember this next time you argue with your partner ask yourself what part of the elephant does your perception defend! This should release the tension!
PERCEPTIONS: are personal or subjective ideas that you make of a situation, of a person...Your brain collects all data coming in from your five senses, will classify the data based on specific categories: age, sex, race, activities, professions, size, experiences to name a few.. Example: A woman having been sexually molested by a man will have a different perception of men, in comparison to another woman who had not been abused. The analysis of the information is influenced by the immediate experience of the person and its values, feelings, knowledge, feelings, and living circumstances.
The Communication Process: is an interaction between two or more individuals. A transmitter (the individual sending a message to a second individual we identify to be the receiver)using verbal or non verbal codes (feelings, words, body language...) is called encoding. The process of paying attention to the message: listening to it, interpretating it is called decoding.
The receiver, now playing the role of transmitter, needs to reply, but before doing so, must first clarify or authenticate the message to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. This is the big mistake most of us make. We assume having understood and we don't bother to clarify the message,and this leads the way to interferences such as the ones mentioned and feelings of frustration. To authenticate we must ask the transferer whether your interpretation of the message is accurate.
Did I hear you right? Is this what you said?and allow the transmitter time and opportunity to answer and clarify if need be. NEVER ASSUME THAT YOU HAVE UNDERSTOOD! If you could just remember this lesson from this encounter, I promise, you will improve your abilities of communication by more than 50%! The process of verbalising in your own words what you understood is called: paraphrasing.
How easy would communication be, if there were no interferences, but we are humans...and wherever there are humans there are limits, there are errors. We must learn to deal with that!
They are the obstacles in the communication process in tranferring messages. I will present them under three classified categories:
1. External Interferences: Those are obstacles from the environment such as the smoke of a cigarette, the sound of babies crying or children screaming while you're on the phone or with your partner, noise that disturbs your ability to concentrate on each other and on the message.
2. Psychological Interferences: You are concerned about personal problems while you communicate with someone and this interferes in your ability to concentrate on your partner's message. You cannot focus. Ex. You have received negative news, you worry about a member of the family...or the person you communicate with reflects a negative image of yourself.
3. Physiological interferences: You are trying to concentrate on the message but you have a headache, your stomach is growling, you didn't have a good night sleep.
We are in a society where information is submerging us from everywhere...the medias, advertising and everywhere you go, you find someone with a cellphone or a Blackberry either talking or text-messaging if not emailing...Faxes, telephone, internet...name it...This can also be a source of interference particularly in public areas where you expect relaxation...in a restaurant...even in our homes! All these methods of communications are called channels.
Do you communicate the same way with your boss, as you do with your child or your partner? Obviously not! Communication is also the ability to adapt the respective behavior to respective circumstances. We are constantly in communication with people, whether it would be business related, family related. The purpose is different and the message transmitted also. Having this, I introduce you to levels of communication which Gry Chapman enumerates to be the following and classified to be the intrapersonal communication levels and the interpersonal communication levels. The difference between both relies on the level of intimacy in regards to the people with whom we communicate.
In the intrapersonal communication levels, we refer to communication in reference to business. We share rapid information to strangers with people we do not necessarily want to bond or develop intimacy. The purpose is strictly for information in regards to business.
We can classify three levels of communication under this category.
The Hallway talk
Another word for hallway talk is shallow communication or surface talk. It's the expected nice or polite things we say when we meet someone in general: Hi! How are you? type of communication. They are more, like acknowledgement statements and in many circumstances we are not going beyond this level even when the situations are not as fine as we present it. Answering fine but deep down, your heart is aching with pain and anger. There is an absolute lack of intimacy between a couple, when they communicate at this level.
The reporter talk (Just give me the facts!)
In this type of communication we answer the basic questions: Who, what, why,when and where without sharing any feelings or opinions about events. In a relationship you are sharing your life with a computer!
The Intellectual talk ( Do you know what I think!)
At this level we are sharing opinions and interpretations or judgments about the matter. These people are like word processors - they are analysers of information. When the self-esteem of the partner is good, they will pursue the conversation, but if the self-esteem is negative, they will drop it because they don't want to be questioned; they feel threatened emotionally. When there is a concern with freedom of expression or of difference of opinions, the intimacy of this relationship is in danger.
Under the category interpersonal communication we will add all relationship of people with whom we bond or feel intimate. sibblings, partners, relatives, friends... Under this category we will find the three first ones but also the following:
The emotional talk (Let me tell you how I feel!)
Partners will share about their feelings. They will tell you whether they are hurt, disappointed, happy, sad, excited, bored, feeling unloved or lonely. Thoughts are easier to share than emotions - considered to be more private. Also, we may fear hurting the partner because of the feeling, or we may feel disappointed (on behalf of the partner) and this can develop misunderstandings. ex. You may find me selfish...
Sharing feelings deepens the intimacy or two partners in a relationship to a higher level. We also share what can be unique to us - because no two people feel the same way about a similar situation. Our lives are different.
The loving and genuine talk ( Let's be honest!)
At this level of communication you speak the truth all lovingly, honestly without condemning...you're opened whenever you have to, but not demanding. You have the freedom to think differently and feel differently. You seek understanding about your partner's feelings and thoughts. You're looking for ways to grow together in your relationship in spite of your differences. To do this you nourish an attitude of acceptance, you create an atmosphere of security to share. You know your partner will continue to accept you despite situations of disagreements. Both partners nourish the desire to meet the best interest of one another and will help each other.
The Motives of Communication
I am sure that you have identified some of the motives of communication by now:
Communication deepens intimacy among partners in a relationship by sharing thoughts, ideas, feelings, information, opinions and concerns.
Problem solving - Communication helps finding solutions about interpersonal relationship concerns or any other... we need to talk to solve problems.
Understanding other people's behaviour
How can you understand the motive behind an attitude or behavior if you don't open up and talk about it.
A good parent, a good teacher must learn to share information clearly and adapt it to the level of understanding of his recevier.
Satisfy your everyday needs
We must open up to express our needs, whether they may be physiological, the need to feel safe, the need of love, the need related to our self-esteem or the need to discover and realise your personal potential or self-fulfilment for the purpose of personal growth.
Communication is mostly recognized as procedure of verbalizing a message, yet we forget that a great percentage of communication is done non verbally through feelings, behavior, attitude. Silence can be a strong message of communication. Space position is another...the distance between two people when they talk!
I am sure you must have heard of the expression:What you do speaks louder than what you say! We must pay attention to this when we enter in communication with people. Have you ever been told: Don't do what I do, do what I say! Very hurting isn't it and yet this says alot about the person! This is the last message you want to give someone - whether it is your child or your best friend!
We mentioned a lot about transfering a message, but just as important as verbalizing the message, is the importance of good listening. This is more than just paying attention...I gave you an example above. Clarify your message...don't assume. You cannot do that if you don't truly listen. Listening also means paying attention to the non verbal and tracking the paradoxes...
If I verbally tell you that I am O.k,and your non verbal communicates something in opposition, you create an interference, a confusion. That must be clarified also.
Listening means paying full attention to the feelings and the messages that are not directly communicated. We might say something...but sometimes the person wants to express a message much deeper, yet feels unable to because of an insecurity or a fear,...are you able to detect this and give the person the necessary space to open further. It's a warning message...I am not sure if...
I would like to conclude with this metaphore to illustrate the whole process of communication:
Communication is not something we do to others; it is something we do with others like two partners leveling their ability together to create a dance. Each of them must take into account the ability of his partner and adjust.
Communication et Interactions 2nd edition by Ronald B.Adler and Neil Towne, Editions Beauchemin,3281 avenue Jean-Bereaud Laval QCCanada, Copyright 2004
After the Affair - Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trush When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful by Janis Abrahams Spring, PH.D and Mickael Spring, Harper Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd street, New York, N.Y., 10022
Now You're Speaking my Language: Honest Communciation and Deeper Intimacy for a Stronger Marriage, by Gary Chapman.
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