|The language of connection|
In the last column Ate Anna mentioned that learning the language of connection can help keep a marriage strong. Today’s column is about communication.
Effective communication is about listening with more than your ears – listening with your mind and heart, as well. Every relationship involves two people and each person needs to be heard. When both partners feel that they have been heard, it strengthens the connection between them.
To begin, let us talk about some common communication mistakes. Perhaps you will see yourself in these examples. The good thing about that is being able to recognize which aspects of your communication style you need to change.
The first thing a couple needs to do is make a commitment to talk about difficult subjects or situations. Some people avoid or completely ignore issues that make them feel uncomfortable. The problem with this, of course, is that the situation is never resolved.
Even when couples are able to talk about a difficult issue, their communication style can prevent resolving the actual conflict. Sometimes one partner assumes to know what the other person’s problem is before they have even started explaining it. Or he or she believes to know what the solution should be. If this is what someone believes, that peerson probably also thinks that they have the right to criticize what the other person is saying. This is one-way communicating. Effective couple communication is like a two-way street with dialogue going both ways.
Another important aspect of good communication is how a message is sent. Some people are very quick to tell someone that what they are doing is wrong or annoying. He or she may send out a “you” message. For example, “You never put gas in the car when you use it!” This type of statement ends up blocking effective communication because it blames or judges the other person.
A better way of dealing with a problem like this is to describe the situation or the behaviour that is upsetting. An “I” message tells the other person how the situation makes us feel. It also tells the other person what we hope will happen. For example, “I get all stressed out when I get in the car and there is no gas in it. If I stop to fill up the car I worry that I’ll be late; but if I don’t stop I worry I will run out of gas. Please fill up the car as soon as you notice that it is below the 1/4 tank mark.”
An “I” message helps us express our feelings without judging or blaming. We choose our words carefully and take responsibility for our own feelings about the situation. This can reduce feelings of defensiveness in the other person. It also tells the other person what changes we would like to see happen.
This style of communication may feel wrong because it is not common in most cultures. But it can increase honesty in a relationship when both partners care about each other. (If one person doesn’t care about how the other partner feels, it won’t change anything.)
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your communication style: Do I listen? Do I hear what my husband or wife is telling me? Do I give full attention when my partner is talking to me? Do I ask questions if I am not sure what my wife or husband is telling me? Do I allow my partner to express his or her thoughts and feelings? Do I try to understand my wife or husband’s point of view – even if it is different from mine?
Think about these questions and try to be honest with your answers. Listening is a very difficult, but important part of good communication. When you listen, you are demonstrating your love, concern and caring for your partner. The next step is being willing to resolve conflict with a win-win solution (see the September 1 article). This will help build a stronger relationship and reduce the negative feelings that can lead to divorce.
Ate Anna wishes all her readers good luck with using their personal power to learn new ways of communicating in order to create a strong marriage. Change is difficult, but it will benefit your own family and the community as a whole.
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, 2nd floor, 555 Broadway, Winnipeg MB R3C 0W4 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org