COMMUNICATION is something we do every day. The sharing of our thoughts and to some degree our feelings, plus gaining of an understanding of the other person’s thoughts, feelings and experience of life’s events are essential skills for functioning in society.
Clearly, given its daily application effective communication is an important ability for us all to become proficient at it. Very few people however, actually learn how to communicate well, we simply just do it, and if there’s a problem, well, it’s your problem.
It’s no surprise then that communication issues are present in all difficulties within a marriage and is the main reason couples seek marriage counselling. Indeed, communication difficulties are typically at the core of nearly all issues that couples struggle with.
The essentials of communication between two people are:
1. One person is sending information (known as talking)
2. Another person receiving the message (known as listening)
Fairly straight forward, and nothing clever about that. Where it all becomes difficult is in the nuances within the process.
What should communication look like?
We advise couples that you can’t just say words and expect the words to do the job for you. You cannot expect that the words to be interpreted in the way that you had intended.
The listener has to listen with a mindset of assuming the best intentions in what the speaker is saying.
The way that we speak and the way that we listen has been essentially shaped from our early childhood and life experiences of communication.
No two people have exactly the same experiences in life so their communication abilities are always going to be different. The trick is to speak with the listener in mind and to listen with the best intent of the speaker.
So how can we get better at communication given all the complexities in each person’s life?
Workshops may help…When couples attend communication workshops you will be taught to use phrases such as “I Statements.” An example would be a one person saying to the other “I don’t like it when you come to bed so late”, instead of “you always come to bed so late, what’s wrong with you.”
Clearly the latter is going to lead to trouble between the couple.
Using these polite phrases are not a waste of time, but we know that it is better to learn self-awareness and a respectful, considered attitude towards communicating with your partner.
When Listening, be Self-aware:
We encourage you to be know what type of listener and thinker you are. For example, are you quick to see the world in an unfriendly or negative way, or the opposite by thinking too positively. Just be self-aware so that you know your bias and then you can ask questions to ensure that you are listening in the way it was intended.
When Speaking, Choose Your Words Mindfully:
We can become better speakers if we are mindful of the person we are talking to. You know your partner well, you know whether they have leanings towards negativity or positivity, etc, you know much of their life history and experiences, so choose your words wisely with these matters in mind.
Remember that no one can interpret all of what you say, or don’t say, with absolute accuracy. You can’t just say a series of words and expect them to do the job for you.
You have to actually package the words in a manner that gives the listener the best chance to hear and interpret your words with what you meant them to say.
Communication leads to understanding
If you feel that there is a negative response in either how you said something, or how you heard your partner, then follow the old carpenters rule of “measure twice, cut once”, that is, check it out with them before you settle on a negative experience.
Should you both keep feeling that you are stuck with negative communication styles and patterns, then give us a call at Marriage Counselling Brisbane.
A counsellor will be able to assist you to untangle your unhelpful habits and to develop more effective ways of communicating with each other.