Ideas about communication—what it is and what it should look like—varies from person to person. It has been said that communication starts with listening. But it starts much sooner than that. Communication begins between your ears, with your beliefs about communication.
Because misunderstands take root when you and your partner have different beliefs about what it means to communicate, it is very important to understand each other’s ideas. This article offers advice on improving communication within your family.
- consider your definition of communication
- reflect on responsibilities
- offer courtesy do-overs
- ask if your message was understood correctly
- overlook the need to accept each other’s opinions
- tell your partner only what he or she wants to hear
- forget to ask for ongoing feedback
What is communication? First, answer this question for yourself. Do not do it quickly. Rather, think about it long and hard. Figure out how you know you are being listened to and how others should let you know they are listening to you.
Once you figure this out for yourself, explore the answers with your partner. The better aligned your definitions of communication are, the quicker you can begin speaking the same language.
Ask yourself, what are my responsibilities to my partner when communicating, and what are his or her responsibilities to me?
Do you and your partner yell or interrupt? Is always needing to be right a major part of your communication style or approach to working with others? Do you expect your partner to read your mind on a consistent basis? Will this clear you from having to ask for what you truly want?
It is the individual who initiates communication who sets the tone for the quality of that communication. Consequently, it is vital that you examine the experience of communicating with you—and what it actually looks like—so people will not feel dread every time you approach them.
How can you be sure if the exact meaning of your words is being conveyed? According to George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
It is not uncommon for individuals to be better at knowing what they mean, rather than being able to translate their meaning into language. As a result, it is important to extend each other the courtesy of a “do-over” when it comes to the words that leave your mouths. Remember that nobody is perfect at selecting the right words each and every time.
One of the best ways to find out whether the intended message has, in fact, been received and understood correctly is to ask. Ask your partner what action he or she will take based on the contents of your conversation.
Instead of reprimanding your partner for not listening, it is critical to develop ways of respectfully letting each other know when something is not working. This is necessary so you can correct the problem.
Partners must feel safe in asking for clarification on communication. They must be able to do this without the fear of being scolded by their partner.
The only way individuals will feel comfortable in letting you know how communication can be improved is when the feedback results in a feeling of appreciation and understanding. So, be sure to listen and accept your partner’s clarification, instead of criticizing them for their opinions and feelings.
Telling your partner only what he or she wants to hear is not helpful to your communication. This will not keep your lines of communication open. The healthiest and strongest relationships require open and honest communication at all times. While this is clearly easier said than done, it is extremely important to accomplish.
Develop the habit of having regular conversation with your partner, which focuses on these questions: “What is going well with us?” and “What can we do to make our relationship even better?”
These questions will help you understand how you are doing as a partner, as well as how your partner is doing as a partner. By having regular conversations on this topic, you can ask these questions, receive feedback, and understand what to keep doing and what to do differently.
These types of conversations are essential for strong communication because it is far easier to give a car a tune up than to rebuild the engine. Keep in mind that it is better to begin discussing what is working well, instead of what is broken.
The key to strong family communication is understanding each other’s beliefs on what it means to communicate and by regularly and openly discussing opinions, feelings and ideas with one another.
Tony Robbins, life coach and motivational speaker, said it best: “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”