A friend of mine who has been happily married for 25 years attests that regular communication is the key to a successful marriage. I recently asked him why communications are so central to his relationship. “I really don’t know,” he replied, “but I surely know this, there’s more to communications than just words.”
So what are the components of communication?
Well, the first component is the message, which is communicated verbally or non-verbally. When we speak to our partner we give expression or utterance to thoughts we are formulating; or we give verbal expression to feelings we experience within; we give expression to gut or intuitive knowledge by taking cognisance of pleasant or unpleasant awarenesses in our gut or tummy; and we give expression through words to creative desire or to spiritual awareness. All these sources are very important and are sometimes called our ‘Ways of Knowing’. We communicate important non-verbal messages through a variety of ways including eye contact, body gestures and facial expressions.
It’s important that we have the desire to understand.
The second component of communication is listening. It’s very important within relationships that we have the willingness, the patience and the capacity to listen to our partner. We would not like it when speaking if our partner stopped listening or constantly interrupted us. So we need to regularly ask ourselves: how do I listen, and when I listen, do I actually hear what my partner is saying?
The third component of communication is interpretation. Very often what we hear is not actually what is spoken. This is because we apply filters of interpretation to what we hear. There are many different types of filters that are connected to our lived experience. We make our own judgements or assumptions on what we hear – often very inaccurately. So we constantly need to check in with our partner: “am I understanding you correctly here, or what exactly did you mean by that?”
We need to regularly ask ourselves: how do I listen, and when I listen, do I actually hear what my partner is saying?
The fourth component of communication is context in that all connection take place within a specific context. This involves active listening so that fully hear what our partner is saying and that we fully understand the background to what our partner is speaking about. If we do not fully understand the background, then we may notice that contexts become blurred which causes confusion and misunderstanding.
The fifth component of communications within relationships is the goodwill to understand your partner. This is very important because bonds of intimacy are always strengthened by understanding. So in the same manner that we like to be understood, it’s important that we have the desire to understand.
The sixth component of communication, and perhaps the most crucial component within loving relationships, is feedback. This occurs when our partner literally feeds back to us what she/he has just heard and how she/ he has understood and interpreted what we have communicated. Accurate feedback helps us to evaluate how we have communicated the message. This is sometimes the area that we practice least.
Speak to your partner for 5 minutes without interruption on any topic of your choice. When finished, ask you partner to tell you in 3 minutes, again without interruption, precisely what she / he heard. Now reverse the process and allow your partner to speak uninterrupted on a subject for 5 minutes. You give the 3 minute feedback.
Now check in with one another, and discuss how accurate both your active listening and feedback was!