Isn’t it a wonder that we can communicate at all? First, we think about what we want to say. Then, we say something that is an echo of our thoughts. The receiver hears what they think we are communicating. Finally, laughingly, they interpret what they think they heard us say. All of this happens in the brief seconds of any conversation.
This idea is paraphrased from Bruce Conn’s “Coupling: Mr. and Mrs. Communication”, which describes the difficulties of communicating in romantic relationships. According to Conn, people are inherently selfish creatures, yet effective communication can only be accomplished when partners place high importance on each other’s needs.
When communicating with anyone, regardless of the type of relationship, always remember why the connection is important to you, Conn advises couples to focus on their devotion and passion for each other. He suggests that since humans tend to think of themselves first, the best way to connect with someone else is to figure out what his or her primary concerns are and address those as best as you can.
You can also show how much you value the other person by listening actively. This critical communication skill is rarely taught effectively… even in communication classes! Very often, when we think we’re listening, we are thinking of the next thing we are going to say. To listen actively, pay close attention to what the other person is saying. Then, base your response on what was said. Give yourself time to respond, if you need it. You might be amazed at how differently the conversation will play out!
Open communication in intimate relationships can be difficult. To deepen the relationship, you must allow yourself to be vulnerable. Yet, when you do share a more personal part of yourself, you can connect more easily.
In the following clip from Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray and Debra attend a parenting class. Watch how their instructor emphasizes acknowledging the other person’s needs and listening actively when teaching them how to handle conflicts with children.
As you can see from the clip, Ray has trouble employing active listening because he is focused on his own wants. It’s a common mistake many of us make. His go-to techniques include guilt, threatening, scapegoating and eventually, blurting out,
“Because I said so”!
In the clip below, watch how Ray uses the instructor’s suggestions to resolve conflicts between his parents and with his immediate family.
In any conflict, when you show others you understand and care about their feelings, you may immediately alleviate some of the anger. Similarly, when you share why something is important to you, the other person may soften and be less confrontational. These techniques are not only useful in conflict resolution, but in any situation where persuasion is necessary. Try these techniques the next time you’re in a business meeting or when you’re planning your next family vacation!
Tailoring your message to your audience is crucial whether in one-on-one conversations, presentations, or written communications. If you don’t address your audience’s needs, your message may be lost.