“We Just Don’t Communicate!”
Very often, when people come in for couples counseling, this is one of the first things that they say. Sometimes, it isn’t about communication at all, but when the problem is, remember communication isn’t magic. Everyone can do it! When you see someone do a dangerous trick on TV, they follow it up with, “Don’t try this at home!” Well, DO try this at home.
Think about communication as “the process of exchanging information”. It can always be improved.
Here are 5 basic principles:
- In all relationships (family, work, love), communication never stops. It is always there, so don’t bother to fight it. Instead, pay attention and get good at it. You are always sending and/or receiving information.
- Communication can be verbal (messages sent through words). Communication can be nonverbal (messages sent by actions or inactions).
- When you have a negative message to send, it is best to send it consciously and verbally rather than carelessly and nonverbally. Communicating with words allows further, useful discussion.
- Communication can be simple and overt (“I am going to feed the dog”) or it can be more complicated (“I am going to feed the dog” accompanied by frown, groan, slamming the dog food on the counter, or announced when you in the middle of an argument).
- Communication is always edited and that is okay. No one says everything that is on their mind and that’s just fine – it is civilized.
- Poor communication is not a personality problem (usually) or character flaw. If you work at communication, you will get good at it.
Pay attention to these 5 ideas and see if it helps. Let me know what you learn.
Many of these ideas came from a 1987 pamphlet prepared by Richard B. Stuart and Barbara Jacobson. It just proves that helpful, basic ideas are still worth remembering.