Can Communication Save My Relationship?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. But communication, it must be kept in mind, is a two way street. When most people hear the word “communication,” they automatically think of talking. But listening is of equal importance. Some experts even say it is of prime importance. Whatever the situation you find yourself in in your love life, you can improve it greatly by focusing on this core component of one’s interpersonal skills.
All relationships need communication in order to survive. Chances are, if your relationship is failing because you are arguing all the time, then one or more of the partners in the relationship have serious listening problems.
Three effective means of listening, which we will now explore, are paraphrasing, clarifying, and giving feedback.
What is Paraphrasing?
To put it simply, paraphrasing is repeating something that someone has just told you, but not verbatim. Instead, when we paraphrase, we put something in our own words. This helps us understand what the other person has just said on a deeper level. It may be silly, but it actually works.
Psychologically, paraphrasing can help calm the other person and avoids turning the conversation in to a nasty argument. When a pause arrives in the conversation, re-phrase what your lover has just said to you in a gentle, soothing voice. This alerts the other person that they have not just wasted their breath, that their words have not “fallen on deaf ears” – but rather ears that are kind, loving, and attentive to what they wish to communicate. It will give them the confidence to be completely honest with you when it comes to expressing their thoughts and feelings.
After you have paraphrased what your lover has said, follow that up with a question as to whether or not you are right. You might feel that this sounds dumb or condescending. But the fact of the matter is, there is nothing easy about communication. Especially between two people who have strong feelings for one another. Oftentimes the emotions get in the way, and effectively block the communication paths. Sometimes taking time out to really listen to one another – and repeat what the other person has said – really helps things “sink in,” so to speak.
You should also be aware of your body language when you are in the process of paraphrasing. A lot of times, our bodies send messages that are contrary to what we are trying to express orally. By learning to listen with awareness and empathy, we will also learn to paraphrase in that fashion.
What is Clarification?
A key to active, engaged listening is clarifying what the other person has said. This also relates to paraphrasing in a way, but whereas paraphrasing is more like a re-statement of what the person has just said in order to demonstrate one’s understanding, clarification is where you ask questions on any points that seem vague or muddy to you.
In relationships, clarification is key to opening up the emotional pathways that we all need in order to love and sustain one another. Clarification can be as simple as saying, “What did you mean by that, honey?”
What is Effective Feedback?
Feedback is something that we all give, whether we are aware of it or not. It is basically a response to what has just been said. Feedback can be negative, in which case it usually leads to an argument or worse, or effective, in which case it is positive and allows the dialogue to continue in a productive fashion.
It should be noted that feedback is the third part of effective listening. You should only give feedback once you have fully understood what your lover has said to you.
What is more, the way in which the feedback is given can determine a lot in the relationship. If you are mean, judgmental, or attacking when you give feedback, then chances are great that you will do a lot of damage to the relationship.
While you want to be honest about your emotions up front, you should do it in a way that is supportive. Remember – your lover has feelings, too. If you hurt those feelings, then you are effectively pushing your lover away, rather than bringing them closer to you.
Once again, when giving feedback, it is of vital importance to pay close attention to one’s body language. A lot of times, body language will prevail over the words you speak. If you are angry, then your body will express that anger, even if your words attempt to convey it. This is why it is important to be relaxed and in a positive mood when giving feedback. Empathy is key here – a good listener knows that. Hopefully, your lover will also know how to treat you with respect and listen carefully to you when you are giving them feedback.