Photo by Mike Meyers
Communication can be a complicated affair in any relationship. We can love each other and still find ourselves going around the same mountain on end. We can hit the same stumbling blocks over and over. This can be very frustrating.
We can also assume that just because we can talk, we can communicate. Communication requires more than just talking.
Effective communication is a learned art. As we grow and evolve, our ability to communicate also changes and improves. In essence, effective communication involves both parties being able to articulate themselves in a way that makes them heard, and in a way that allows for a solution to be found.
Today we are looking at small things that can immensely improve our ability to communicate, as well as help us build strong healthy relationships.
Be quick to listen
It sounds so simple but it’s not. We don’t naturally come with the ability to listen. At least not the way we are supposed to. There is a difference between listening and hearing. To effectively communicate we have to learn to not just hear but to listen. We can hear without listening. When we listen to what the other person is saying, we do it with the intention of truly understanding what they are saying.
Listening tells people that what they have to say is important. It tells them that their opinions are valued. When people feel valued and appreciated they are more open to being vulnerable and honest in their communication.
James 1:19 exhorts, “Let every person be quick to listen. Slow to speak, and slow to anger.” There is a correlation between listening and speaking. When we are quick to speak, we are simultaneously slow to hear, but when we are quick to listen, it forces us to be slow in speaking.
I don’t know about you, but I can benefit more from my relationships if I came in with the goal of listening rather than speaking.
It is possible to be in a situation where our feelings and experience are so amplified that we cannot see the other person. Relationships tend to do this to people. Our hurts can make us unaware of what the other person is going through. We often get angry and think, “How can they be so insensitive? Can’t they see how much this hurt me?”
Effective communication requires empathy. Empathy means getting out of our own feelings into someone else’s feelings and perspective. We empathize with their feeling and perspective. We try to understand where they are coming from. And we give them an opportunity to explain why they said or did what they did. When we show empathy, it allows people to take responsibility for their actions without fear of punishment.
Here are a few statements that can help communicate empathy:
· Help me understand where you are coming from.
· I want to see your perspective on this so we can find a solution.
· I am hurt, but I am willing to look at this from your side because I want to understand.
Discernment is key in effective communication because sometimes there is more to a story than what we can see. Discernment isn’t suspicion. It is the ability to see beyond the surface into the heart of the matter.
Often, couples can find themselves locked in a war of words over trivial things. We can bicker about petty things not knowing that what we‘re fighting about isn’t what we are really fighting about! Sometimes our conflicts are just symptoms of a bigger problem we are unaware of or have probably ignored.
Discernment requires a deeper digging to really find out what is going on. We dig deeper into our own hearts, and we help the other person do the same. When we use discernment we are able to get to the root of the matter and deal with the things that are adversely affecting our relationship.
Remember you are a team
They say, “Teamwork makes the dream work”. This is easier said than done. In a relationship, we can quickly forget whose side we’re on when we feel threatened or scared. We can be tempted to fight for “me” instead of fighting for “us”. We can rally against the other person and make them to be the enemy. Whenever we do this, we will come into any conversation with the goal to self-protect at all costs. It doesn’t matter what this person says, we will come in ready to look out for ourselves. Our relationship cannot thrive where there is no teamwork. When there is a team mentality, we see problems as “ours” rather than “mine or theirs“. We seek to find a solution that is mutually beneficial to both parties.
Growing out of survival patterns
Survival patterns are communication patterns we adapted to growing up. There is a way people respond when they are trying to survive difficulties or traumatic experiences.
For instance, one person’s survival pattern can be when they find themselves in a conflict they become intense and loud. Another pattern could be the silent treatment. In a difficult situation, they respond by shutting down and walking away- avoidance is their play. Others bend towards aggressive behavior or manipulate people and situations to get their way. We all have a survival pattern we learnt growing up. Our parent’s way of communicating often boomerangs off of us.
In learning effective communication, we first have to identify our survival patterns. Then make an effort to grow out of these because they will hinder our ability to communicate efficiently in relationships.
Compromise comes in when there is a difference of opinion or preferences. In a relationship, we won’t see eye to eye on most things, we won’t also like the same things. This is okay, what kind of a relationship would you have if you always agreed on everything and liked everything the other liked? These differences give room for us to grow in our love for each other.
It takes selflessness to put someone’s need above yours, this is compromise. Compromise can also mean agreeing to disagree. We may not see eye to eye on that thing but we can respectfully agree to disagree. Compromise also means that I’m willing to abandon my right for the sake of our relationship. We can be able to find a middle ground for these differences. When we choose compromise, we are saying that our relationship is more important than us always getting what we want.
You would think this is simple, but it is not. Life will often provide infinite opportunities to be unkind. Kindness is powerful in a relationship. It fosters a tenderness of heart. It is much easier to be kind to strangers than it is to be to people we have to share our lives with. Kindness can look like overlooking an offense. It can look like not giving in to the temptation to make a snarky remark. It can be restraining from using sarcasm. It can be choosing not to keep a record of wrongs done against us. It can be choosing forgiveness over and over again. If we will consciously choose kindness, it will do wonders for our relationship.
Covering with love
Not everything needs to be dealt with. Some things just need a little love. We can choose our battles wisely. We can decide what is worth fighting over and what’s not. Covering with love also means not taking our issues outside our relationships. When we are hurt, it is easy to run to people who can agree with our hurt, but love first seeks to cover. We can be careful about what we talk to others about our relationship and can protect it with love.
People can feel safe to share their hearts with us when they know that they will be covered in love rather than exposed. We can live by this, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
Dealing with small things
In relationships, molehills can quickly become insurmountable mountains. Some things need to be nipped in the bud before they grow into bigger things. Some things won’t go away they need to be dealt with. There is therefore a need for wisdom to know when a small thing has the potential of becoming bigger so that we can deal with it quickly. Some of the huge crises we face could have been avoided if they were dealt with sooner.
I also understand that because of a lack of communication, we can be blindsided by someone’s trouble because they will only talk about it when it blows out of control. Don’t keep things to yourself when you know it affects the other person too. Don’t keep things in the dark; what is in the dark always has a way of coming into the light eventually. And when it does it is catastrophic to the relationship.
Prayer is powerful; involve God in your relationship. So many things could be avoided if we were keen to pray for our relationship. Pray for one another. Pray with each other. Bring your worries, troubles, and cares before God. God is able to do what we cannot do. When we pray it clears our hearts and mind to see things clearly. This can greatly help the way we communicate in relationships.
Before you talk to them, first talk to God and ask Him for His perspective. You might see things in a way that you hadn’t seen before. When we pray God is able to give us insight into how to deal with things differently. Don’t let prayer be your last resort, make it your first priority. When God is first in our lives, all other things tend to fall into their rightful place.
With these little things, I pray that your relationship will be enriched and blessed. I don’t write this as one who has succeeded in communication. I write this as a reminder of the little things that I can add to bring more value and life to all my relationships.
These aren’t just reserved for a romantic relationship they can also find application in all our relationships.
2 thoughts on “10 Ways to Foster Effective Communication in a Relationship”
Lucy, this is such a good post about an important topic. Communication is very important in any relationship and each and every point you mentioned plays a role in bettering effective communication. As I was reading them, I was nodding my head over each point. Very thorough and well put together.
Have a wonderful weekend 💙💐
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Thank you Manu! Be blessed❤️
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