The Art of Communication

Try these steps to prevent miscommunication in your relationships!
By Mitchell Qualls
September 30, 2021

Have you ever gotten frustrated with your spouse because they didn’t listen to you? Misunderstood someone? Been misunderstood? I have. We’ve all miscommunicated and misunderstood. As the poet said, “To err is human.” 

At the heart of most relationship issues lies miscommunication. Whether it is parent to child, husband to wife, spouse to an in-law, or friend to friend, missteps in communication have the potential to devastate a relationship. Big time.

Communication is an art. But, how do we improve it? How do we lessen the misunderstandings in our relationships?

In his book, Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman suggests that we can master the art of communication with these three tools:

The Art of Listening

If you haven’t already figured it out, you can’t read minds. And no one can read yours. That’s really a good thing. (Flashback to Mel Gibson becoming overwhelmed when he can hear the thoughts of every woman around him in What Women Want.

We can observe behavior, though. That starts with listening.

Dr. Chapman breaks down listening into five steps:

1. Ask questions.

Asking questions that show you’re sincerely interested in someone’s answers is far more effective than simply assuming you know why they do what they do.

2. Don’t interrupt.

We’re all tempted to jump in and finish someone else’s thoughts, but doing that is harmful to the conversation. Chapman writes, “The purpose of listening is to understand, not make a point.”

3. Clarify meaning.

We often listen from our perspective. Take the time to ask additional questions and understand exactly what they’re saying. Repeat it back to them if necessary. You can always say, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.” Then tell them what you heard. 

4. Express appreciation.

Thank them for sharing. You don’t have to affirm what they said if you disagree. “You are affirming their humanity, the right to think and feel differently from other people,” Chapman explains. 

Now, this is important: You must complete these four steps to earn the right to move on to number five.

5. Share your perspective.

“Because you listened, you are far more likely to be listened to,” Chapman stresses. You haven’t interrupted, you’ve clarified what they said, and you affirmed that they have value. Now you may share your viewpoint.

The Art of Speaking for Yourself

A crucial practice when communicating is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. 

“When we begin a sentence with you, we are speaking as though we have ultimate knowledge of a person. In reality, we have only a perception,” Chapman shares. 

“You” statements can come across as accusatory and may lead to arguments. They are based on assumptions. Assuming is dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Beginning a thought with “I” shows you are revealing your feelings and your thoughts. You’re indicating a problem without condemning the other person. 

Instead of saying something like “You never listen to me,” try saying, “I don’t always feel heard.”

The Art of Negotiating

If you’ve been in any type of relationship, you know compromise is king. We all think differently and have different experiences.

When you learn how to effectively negotiate, you can build bridges with others. 

“Making a proposal is the first step in the process of negotiating. The second step is listening carefully to counterproposals,” Chapman notes. “Remember, negotiating has to do with two people trying to understand each other and reach an agreement that both of them will feel good about.”

“A proposal opens the opportunity for dialogue,” he continues. “The process of listening, understanding, and seeking to find an agreement is the process of negotiation.” When negotiating, it’s essential to get into the habit of making requests, not demands. 

Your relationships are worth the effort to master the art of communication. We’ll all make mistakes and miscommunicate from time to time, for sure. But you have value, and the people you are in a relationship with also have value. Take the time to communicate effectively and show lots of grace. Remember, to err is human.

Sources

Happily Ever After by Dr. Gary Chapman

The Importance of Communication in a Relationship 

What Great Listeners Actually Do

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