If you’ve ever watched a soapie you’ll know that one of the biggest problems in the onscreen relationships is lack of communication. (This is why I don’t watch them – it frustrates me!)
Half the drama could be eliminated if the people would either just tell each other what’s going on in their heads or stop assuming they know what the other person is thinking!
(But then I suppose the story wouldn’t drag out for so long, right?)
Whether you are just entering a relationship, about to get married, are newly married or have a bunch of married years behind you, communication is essential.
Because without satisfying, effective communication, relationships break down.
Studies show that improving your communication increases the quality of your relationship more than anything else you do.
Dr’s Les and Leslie Parrott share 3 levels of communication in their book Love Talk.[i]
This is the shallowest level of communication and consists of saying required things like, “How are you doing?” that is met with the predictable “Fine.” This level is a great comfort level but won’t be good if that’s all your communication ever consists of.
This is talking about facts and opinions. Politics, movies, people, church, sports. While this level of communication has its place it lacks intimacy and real connectedness. Reporting and discussing won’t always bring you closer together.
A couples reaches this level when each person feels safe enough to share areas of weakness or feelings that may put him or her in a bad light. It means you let your guard down. You reveal your heart and speak your mind, yet know that you will be understood and accepted.
The exchange of information will not keep a love relationship alive. Nor will a bunch of communication techniques.
The secret to good communication is the desire to understand each other. You must be genuine.
Genuineness is expressed in your tone and non-verbal behaviour, your eyes and posture.
It’s something you are, not something you do.
It comes from the heart.
Good communication consists of two things: expressing thoughts verbally and listening.
But you want to do more than just talk and listen. You want to do them well.
There is a difference between expressing thoughts and expressing them well. This matters a lot when you are tackling a sticky issue. I’m not saying you have to express yourself perfectly, but learning to do it better will go a long way when working through conflict. (For more on conflict resolution read what not to do when you’re in a fight)
Here are some tips:
Make sure that your heart is under God’s control. Don’t allow your feelings to rule as you communicate. If you are too angry to talk rationally then take some time to get yourself calm before engaging again. Make sure you don’t abandon the conversation. Come back to it and finish it.
When dealing with conflict, take some time to think about what you should say. Write your thoughts down. This will help you to stay focused and not get side-tracked or forget what you need to say. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.” Proverbs 15:28
Never say “never” or “always”. “You never listen to me!” or “You always leave your clothes on the floor,” are absolute statements. Is it true that he never listens? Does she always leave her clothes on the floor? I bet not.
Learn when to stop talking. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 Silence is also communication. Learn to use it – not as punishment but as a result of self-control.
Related: How to talk about issues in marriage
Listening is as important as talking when it comes to good communication.
Here are some tips to listening well:
Choose to focus and really hear what the other person is saying. Listening and hearing are not the same thing.
Make positive eye contact, not a fixed stare.
Have an open, inviting posture. Folding your arms or turning your back show that you are closed to communication.
– cleaning your glasses, cracking your knuckles, looking at your watch or phone or drumming your fingers all indicate that you are not engaged.
Allow the other person to express themselves without interruption. Each person should have a chance to share their thoughts.
Check that you understand what they are saying by repeating back to them what you have heard – what they say and what you hear are not always the same thing.
There is only one rule for being a good talker – learn to listen. [ii]
Don’t know where to start on improving your communication?
Eliminate hurry from your conversations. Sit still without multitasking, linger over your meal instead of rushing off, turn off the TV or radio.
Build a chat time into your schedule at least 2 or 3 times a week. Whether it’s a date night or just some time alone at home, do it.
sharing of feelings. This requires vulnerability and trust. Revealing your heart and speaking your mind will be easy when you know that your partner understands and accepts you.
Communication is a skill you can learn – like riding a bicycle. If you’re willing to work at it you will improve.
And so will your relationship.
Because communication is the lifeblood of relationship.
Are you satisfied with your communication? Where do you need to improve? Leave a comment below.
[i] Love Talk, 42, Drs Les & Leslie Parrott
[ii] Christopher Morley