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Communication: A Vital Key in Relationships

Communication skills are critical for building healthy relationships, especially when one realizes that one of the most common causes of relational breakdown is a lack of communication. “The medium is the message”. The way the message is delivered is the message itself.

WRITTEN BY: ERU KOBE GODWIN

Communication is the art or science of transferring a thought, an idea or information from the mind of one complex human being to the mind of one or more complex human being(s). Communication is a vital part of our lives: a typical day involves many interactions between ourselves, our colleagues and clients at work, our children, our friends, and our partners. Communication skills are critical for building healthy relationships, especially when one realizes that one of the most common causes of relational breakdown is a lack of communication. Just as communication can be the most important part of a relationship, arguments can be the most destructive aspect—the closer we are to someone, the more easily we can bruise or be bruised. It’s not what we say but, rather, how we say it.  Remember: words are weapons

Communication is a complex process.  85% of human communication is non-verbal (facial expressions, body language, tone of voice etc.), 15% is verbal (spoken words).  For communication to be effective, it must be a two-way process.

Dynamics of Interpersonal Communication

1.  Facts: are both people communicating about the same set of facts?  Try to separate the facts from thoughts or feelings.

2.  Interpretations, thoughts or perceptions:  each person interprets a fact differently based on their belief system, personality, values and experience.

3.  Feelings: how we are feeling? Our current mood and frame of mind can sub-consciously affect decisions and thoughts.

4.  Intentions, needs or wants: hidden agendas, are we looking for comfort, clarification, information or simply a chance to interact?  We judge ourselves on our intentions.

5.  Actions: choice of words (is the intent to create harm?) + tone of voice + non-verbal speech = body language, posture, eye contact, and facial expressions.

6.  Self:  the communication centre, which includes the issue, topic or conflict at hand, has been “filtered” by the facts, interpretations, thoughts, feelings, intentions, and choices of behavior/actions.

“The medium is the message”.  The way the message is delivered is the message itself.

Listening and Feedback

Listening is an active, not a passive, process.  When two people argue, they only hear what they want to hear, not what’s actually said.  This equates to the accusation of “not listening”.

Don’t argue when you’re angry; you will not be able to listen objectively.

It’s important to give feedback, checking and confirming.  Feedback can be verbal/non-verbal e.g. a nod, smile, silence or a cold shoulder.

Steps to Effective Communication

1.  See communication as an opportunity to praise, build-up, affirm, heal, support and give positive reinforcement, rather than to correct, criticize , tear down, hurt, wound, and lash out at.  Praise opens doors to further communication, while criticism shuts them down.

2.  Communicate in ways that show respect for the other person’s worth as a human being. Avoid statements which begin with the words “You never …” or “I think you …”

3.  Recognize that each event can be seen from different points of view.  Avoid assuming that other people see things like you do (Perception).

4.  Recognize that disagreement can be a meaningful form of communication. Avoid destructive arguments.

5.  Be honest and open about your feelings and viewpoints. Bring up all significant problems even if you are afraid that doing so will disturb another person.  Speak the truth in love.  Avoid sullen silences.

6.  Do not put down and/or manipulate the other person with tactics such as ridicule, interrupting, name-calling, changing the subject, blaming, bugging, sarcasm, criticism, pouting, guilt-inducing.

7.  Be more concerned about how your communication affects others than about what you intended. Avoid getting bitter if you are misunderstood.

8.  Ask questions and listen carefully. Avoid preaching or lecturing.

9.  Do not use excuses. Avoid falling for the excuses of others.

10.  Recognize the value of humour and seriousness. Avoid destructive teasing.

As you look ahead to new relationships, you need  to break old and faulty communication patterns to allow for healthier interaction. The use of praise and positive reinforcement will reconstruct wounded and broken self-images and will build self-esteem, particularly in children. By becoming an effective communicator, you will also grow and become a better person and this will positively enhance all your relationships.

Eru Kobe Godwin is a poet, designer, and a writer at connectnigeria.com.  He is also the CEO at Cypress Concepts: corporate and casual shirt designers and stylists.

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