The key to a sound and long-lasting relationship is communication. If you are to develop deep, strong relationships, you need to be able to share information about yourself and encourage your partner similarly to express him or herself. Good communication with a natural flow, consists of three essential skills: listening to what the other person is saying; expressing how you feel and what you think; and accepting the other person’s opinions and feelings, even if they are different from your own. The manner in which some people communicate with each other may cause permanent damage to their relationship. These “communication spoilers” interrupt the speaker’s natural flow, making him or her less inclined to talk. They occur most commonly in times of stress, but if they are allowed to continue over a prolonged period, they cause conversation to suffer, resentment to build up, and emotional distance to increase.
For the average person, listening takes up more waking hours than any other activity. Sadly, few people are good listeners. It is enormously frustrating to talk to somebody about something important and find that they have not really listened, but are responding in an automatic, pre-programmed, mechanical way. Listening is more than just hearing. Effective listening is an active, not a passive skill, made up of a number of set components. The quality of your listening greatly affects the nature of the speaker’s communication and your ability to understand what has been said. Listening skills affect your personal relationships.
BE A GOOD LISTENER
|1. FACE THE SPEAKER
Sit where you can clearly see the speaker’s face, on the same level. Make eye contact but do not stare.
|2. USE OPEN QUESTIONS
Do not allow one-word answers. Allow the speaker to open up. Say “how do you feel?” and not “did you feel sad?”
|3. BE ENCOURAGING
Put the speaker at ease by making encouraging noises to show you are listening. Say “yes”, “Hmm”. “really”. Nod your head.
Briefly restate the essence of what has been said in your own words.
5. DO NOT INTERUPT
Allow the speaker to think and express his/her feelings without interruptions or prompting. Wait. Be patient.
Mirror back to the speaker the emotions and meanings in what s/he says. For example, “so you’re saying that you’re angry with me”.
Relationships are at their healthiest when both parties can express themselves assertively and openly. Disclosing personal information helps your relationship develop – but this needs to be done in a particular way, and in a gradual and reciprocal fashion. Remember that you and your partner are different people. You cannot always agree on the way you think and feel. Accepting each other and tolerating the differences, and any resulting frustration, is an essential key for relationships to flourish.
1. TIME IT RIGHT
Choose the right time and place. Avoid discussing important issues when you are tired. It may help to make notes beforehand.
2. BE CONCISE
Stick to the point. Do not trawl through old, stale issues. Do not allow yourself to nag or be side tracked.
3. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
begin with “I” to show that you accept responsibility. Say “I feel” or “I think” and not “you make me feel..”.
|4. BE ASSERTIVE
Describe irritating behaviour, your feelings, and the effects. Say, “when you won’t get up, I feel annoyed because it makes me late”.
|5. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS
Be careful not to insult, threaten or denigrate. Be honest and positive, but tactful. Criticise actions rather than personality.
|6. SEEK A REACTION
Make your point and then listen to the other person’s point of view. Understand and accept his/her reaction.
Although personality is clearly a factor in the way you relate to others, it has been suggested that men and women are fundamentally different in the way they communicate. This may be due to the process of socialisation, as men are programmed to be more competitive, or it may be a genetic trait.
- Men tend to offer solutions to problems and want to achieve results, whereas women tend to share feelings and discuss difficulties.
- Men’s talk tends to revolve around passing on information and displaying knowledge, skills, status and independence, while women’s talk is based on sharing similar experiences, creating intimacy and rapport.
- Men are more prone to mull things over, then formulate and express the most correct, practical and useful response, whereas women are more prone to thinking aloud, sharing their inner dialogue, often using poetic licence to make their feelings known.
Being aware of and tolerating some of these differences in communication styles can lead to a more accepting attitude to your partner. At the heart of all good relationships is a balance of exchange in which each partner gives and receives. If one partner gives a lot but receives little in return, s/he is likely to feel dissatisfied. This “give and take” is a skill that needs to be learned. You must be aware of your own needs and express what you want and how you feel, and you must listen to and understand the needs of your partner. Improve your communication by using the practical skills mentioned, you might discover that you and your partner are able relate in a more enjoyable manner.