Communication in a relationship
Relationships are difficult for most of us. It is also such a big topic so I have decided to write a little about communication in this article. I will write other articles on relationships generally and about communication specifically in future articles. But let’s get started…
A love relationship consists of 2 people. Not one and not 3 or more. Only two. So when something goes awry in a love relationship, there are two people that suffer the consequences, even if the one person actually went out and ‘did’ something that had a negative impact on the relationship. Both people suffer and both people are impacted by it. Therefore, it takes two people to sort it out because both people have contributed to getting the relationship to where it is now.
It doesn’t help the relationship to blame the one person – that just makes things stay where they are now. Blaming means that the blamer is not taking responsibility for their part in the problem, no matter how small their part may be.
As people, we try and improve the situation by doing something that we think will help. Sometimes though, although we think we are helping, we are actually making things worse, even though what we are doing comes from a good place. A good example of this is when our partner tells us something that is worrying them and we offer advice. They may feel inadequate when we offer advice because they haven’t thought of it or it may make them feel even worse because they don’t know how to implement this advice. As a result, it has a negative effect on them and they respond negatively, once again impacting negatively on the relationship. In this example, it would probably be good enough just to listen and acknowledge how your partner is feeling, without offering any advice at all. That may be all that they want.
When we don’t deal effectively with things in a relationship or don’t talk about them, they don’t go away – they just sit in the dark until something gives them an opportunity to come out and then there they are again. This means that couples find themselves fighting about the same old things over and over again. What on earth are these things doing back here, you may think. But they never went away.
People ask whether they have to change themselves completely. Or some don’t believe that their partners can change. Remember that personality cannot change. Personality is formed from a young age and is part of who you are. Personality traits can be introvert, extrovert, sensitive, nurturing, honest, fussy, perfectionistic, shy, etc.
But behaviour can change. Behaviours are things like habits, ways we do things, ways we respond to certain situations and stimuli. Behaviours are of course influenced by various things. But behaviour is different from personality.
Let’s get started with talking about some communication problems.
Active and effective communication
Communication is not just talking. It is all of the following:
- Thinking about what to say
- Thinking about who our audience is so that we put it in a way that is best received by them
- Making sure that our surroundings are conducive to having that conversation (place, time, etc. should be as ideal as possible)
- Making sure that our audience (even if that is only 1 person) is ready and willing to have this conversation
- Expressing the message
- Waiting until the other person has received the message and keeping quiet during this time
- The person receives the message and it is understood and decoded in the brain
- The person makes sense of the message, feels anything that they need to feel and realises that some feelings may not be appropriate here and may be coming from the past
- The person thinks about what they are going to respond
- Continue from point 2
Therefore, effective communication means that you both speak effectively and listen effectively. To listen, it is important that you:
- Don’t talk at the same time as the other person is talking
- Try not to have preconceived ideas about why the person is saying what they are saying and try to keep an open mind, even though you have known the person a long time
- Listen to what the person is saying and what they are not saying
- Try not to be thinking about what you will respond while the person is talking
- To ensure that you have heard properly, ask the person whether what you have heard is correct – i.e. ask for clarity
Communicating your position (non-blaming communication):
- Always talk from the position of “I”. Examples: I feel disrespected when you swear at me. I feel excluded when you change our plans without talking to me. I feel unsupported when your mother is nasty to me and you don’t say anything to her. I feel hurt when you don’t buy me a birthday gift. I feel rejected when you don’t feel like having sex with me.
- Decide that you are going to talk ‘with’ your partner and not ‘at’ your partner.
- Accept that you may not ‘get’ what you want but that a relationship means that you may have to deal with a compromise.
Let’s leave it there for this article. I will continue with information on this topic soon.