The ABC’S of effective communication

The ABC’S of effective communication

“I relate, therefore I am. Thus how I impact on you and how you impact on me determine the nature and quality of our being.” Charl Vorster

The above quote by Professor Vorster contains the essence of human relations and forms the basis of interactional therapy. This type of therapy focuses on the interaction between people. We are social beings that relate to one another. There is a constant flow of communication between us and this communication has an impact on the other person. Likewise what and how that person communicates has an impact on you. This impact we have on each other determines the nature and quality of our being. It is therefore very important to look at what communication is and how we can communicate more effectively with others in an effort to understand the impact we have on each other.

What is communication?

Communication is a process of conveying beliefs, attitudes, feelings, opinions and ideas between people in a relationship. Communication in a relationship involves verbal (speaking) as well as non-verbal language. Non-verbal language includes listening, gestures, touch, and silences. In a relationship the communication between two people is central to the survival on the relationship. If the communication is ineffective the relationship as a whole is not working well. Thus if your relationship is not working well you will need to work on your communication. You will need to work on both your verbal (speaking) as well as non-verbal communication.

Verbal communication

The following guidelines can help you to speak more effectively when talking to other people, especially your partner.

  • Use “I” messages when talking or putting across your requests. “You” messages can come across as blaming and can make the other person defensive. It is important to remember that your view is only one side of the story and that your partners view may be different, but just as valid as your view.
  • Turn your complaints into requests. For example the following complaint “You never help me to bath the kids” can be translated into a need “I would really like it if you could help me to bath the kids tonight”. This skill takes practice to develop, but if you would like your partner to be able to hear and respond to your needs it is important that they are communicated effectively.
  • Express your feelings when speaking. Speaking on an emotional level personalises your experience and enables your partner to understand how his or her behaviour has impacted on you.
  • Don’t generalise your partner’s behaviour. Such as saying “all men are the same”. Try to be specific and focused on their behaviour so that they understand what you are trying to communicate.
  • Be aware of your tone of voice. Caring messages may not be heard as such in an irritated tone of voice.

Non-verbal communication

Communication does not happen in isolation, therefore you cannot help but to communicate. Or put differently, you cannot not communicate. Even not saying anything in a conversation says something. The other person will attach a meaning to your silence. You cannot not communicate:)Thus all your verbal and non-verbal behaviour conveys messages. This of course includes your gestures, touches, silences and listening. Listening is probably the most important non-verbal communication that a person needs to practice to be able to have a fulfilling relationship. Listening involves:

  • Listening to the words;
  • Being attentive with your eyes;
  • Listening to the tone of voice;
  • Listening to the feelings expressed; and
  • Communicating what you have heard back to the other person.

When communicating with others one needs to be able to listen to another person’s point of view. What this means is that you have to temporarily put your own view aside and try to put yourself into the shoes of the other person. Try to understand what they are saying from their point of view. Periodically you need to ‘give back’ to the other person what you have heard to check with them that you understood them correctly. This will also help the other person to feel understood by you, a feeling that brings immense relief and closeness. Here are some guidelines to assist you in developing effective listening skills:

  • Allow your partner to finish what he or she is saying. Don’t interrupt them;
  • Communicate what you have heard back to your partner by paraphrasing what they have said. This process corrects any potential misunderstandings and enables the speaker to attempt to clearly state their message again if it has been unclear;
  • Listen with empathy. Empathy involves understanding the others feelings and communicating the feeling back to them.

Empathy is a powerful tool that fosters a healthy relationship by:

  • Promoting communication and fostering an environment of respect, love, understanding and care;
  • Reducing tension, by expressing feelings or problems and dealing effectively with the emotions in the relationship;
  • Making your partner feel important, acknowledged and respected.

These are the ABC’s of effective communication and require practice and dedication to implement in your relationships.

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