The skills I consider to be most crucial in achieving a long and happy marriage are, principles and misconceptions, self-concept, gender and cultural differences, nonverbal communication and last but most importantly, listening. There are many communication skills necessary to ensure a successful relationship, and when it comes to effective interpersonal communications there are many aspects of communicating that we need to remember. Communication and the way we communicate is said to be what separates us from our animal cousins. It is defined as a process by which we share ideas of information with other people (cited in Sole, p.5).
Whether it is verbal or nonverbal, communication is the most important aspect of building a lasting relationship.
Principles and Misconceptions
To begin with I would like to explain a little about the principles and misconceptions in terms of interpersonal communications. It is necessary to mention that Communication is not simply the exchange of words and information; it is the means through which we share knowledge, thoughts, ideas, and feelings with other people¦the way people connect with other people¦and it is these interactions that create the meaning and richness of life (Cited in Sole, preface). Linguists who have studied the basis of the human language believe that the human language uses symbols such as words, pictures or objects to represent something else.
It has been agreed upon that certain communications symbols stand for certain sounds or written combination of letters to equate to a particular object (Sole, 2011). Because the meaning of a word can conger up different images for everyone it is crucial, that when communicating with others, that there is a shared understanding of the meaning of the words to eliminate any misconceptions for either the person speaking or the person listening. Improving your interpersonal verbal communication skills enables one to be better understood and results in fewer miscommunications. Let me stress at this time that it is imperative that you take the time to get feedback when having a conversation in order to make sure that the other person understands exactly what you are saying. Although it has been thought that good communication skills between loved ones are strong, recent studies show that couples are often times no better at communicating with one another than they are with strangers.
I recently read an article that was published in U.S. News & World Report in January of 2011 on communication, as it pertains to close relationships. The outcome of a study done by professors Kenneth Savitsky and Nicholas Epley offers valid examples of common miscommunications with couples. . As the study co-author Epley points out Our problem in communicating with friends and spouses is that we have an illusion of insight (Epley, 2011). Many of us tend to assume that those we care about will be able to interpret the information we are offering without needing clarification. Well, this does not always happen. Effectively translating and conveying information while being sensitive to other peoples feelings is a skill. Even though communicating is often times complex, with continuous practice we can avoid the misunderstandings that can lead to problems in our personal lives. Having affective interpersonal communication skills can be the beginning; the initial step for both of you toward a mutual understanding which can lead to a successful relationship (Sole, 2011).
Another important aspect of interpersonal communication that I would like to share with you is that of self-concept, which can be described as a complicated process that involves our gaining self-awareness, or in simpler terms, self-concept has to do with how we see ourselves as well as how others see us. It develops as a child and with the proper guidance can develop into a healthy image of ones self. On the other hand negativity can also affect how we see ourselves (Sole, 2011). A child who grows up with positive reinforcement is more likely to be a confident individual who possesses the ability to converse in a more effective manner.
It is here that I would like to disclose to you some personal information that will show how vital self-concept is. I was the product of a broken home. Now, you may argue that this is not unusual, but you should keep in mind that I grew up in the sixties; divorce was not as common as it is today. I was raised by a verbally abusive mother and suffered for a number of years as a young adult from low self-esteem, and as I have learned from taking this class, low self-esteem leads to insecurity and a lack of confidence. I worked for years to reverse the damage that was done. I was well into my thirties before I had gained the confidence necessary to build a good relationship.
Since the psychological concepts of self relates to interpersonal communications in many ways, this is a critical factor in communications, not only how it affects the way we interact with others, but how they interact with us. In the textbook, Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication written by Kathy Sole (2011), she notes that, not only is self-concept learned, it is changeable. It is developed through interaction with other. In other words, self-concept, self-image, and self-esteem not only define who we are, but govern relationship quality. Having a positive self-concept leads to positive self-image, this in turn ensures a more positive feeling of self-esteem (Sole, 2011).
Gender and Cultural Differences
From here we can start to access other problem areas that couples are confronted with such as gender and cultural differences. Gender and cultural differences is an area that many couples have difficulty with at one time or another. I am sure that you have noticed the diversity that exists when comparing the way men and women carry on a conversation. Even though we all want to connect to others there are distinct contrasts; not only is the language different between men and women but facial expression and body language are different as well. Words are interpreted differently. This can be said for cultural differences too. Generally speaking though, both men and women can be nurturing, sentimental and even aggressive. The afore mentioned emotions, as well as how we perceive each other and nonverbal communication, all go hand-in hand when striving to achieve effective interpersonal communications.
It is surprising how much can be communicated without uttering a single word, or what is called nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication can relay a message through a frown, a cold stare, or even shrugging your shoulders. Nonverbal communications (the process of communicating by sending wordless messages) can time and again lead to being misunderstood. Nonverbal communications encompasses not only body language, but facial expressions, and can even convey communications simply by how we choose to dress. Since very few gestures are universal, there is often times moments of awkwardness (Miczo, Segrin, Allspach , 2001).
What we consider perfectly acceptable may offend a person from other cultures and some messages we send via nonverbal communication are done so unconsciously. When we use nonverbal communications we are substituting those gestures instead of using words and sometimes nonverbal messages are misunderstood (Sole, 2011). This type of communication is often times misinterpreted. For example, there was an instance when I was much younger that I found myself at a social gathering with not only friends, but people I had not yet met. It was at this function that one of the men in the group was telling us of an incident that he had recently experienced.
Because I smiled and laughed in, what he considered to be, all of the appropriate places he took this to mean that I was interested in him. It was embarrassing for me because that was not the case; I was simply being a polite listener. So you can see from my experience, our nonverbal communication is as important as the words we choose in communicating with another individual or group of individuals. Remember that having an emotional discussion with someone and using the wrong hand gestures and/or facial expressions might cause a person to misinterpret or misunderstand what you are actually trying to convey to them.
Last but not least, and often times one of the most overlooked issue when discussing interpersonal communication, and what I feel to be the most important part of successful communication for couples, is listening. I am sure you have found yourself at times not giving your full attention when someone is speaking to you. A lack of motivation is often times the culprit. We all have a tendency to start thinking about other things if the speaker is not holding our attention, I am including myself, but to be a good listener ensures, that given all of the information, you will be able to offer a valid response. In order to relate to others it is important to listen to what they have to say. Even though we have been taught from childhood various skills such as reading and writing, one skill that is often overlooked is listening.
Most of us feel that we are good listeners, but most of us are guilty of only hearing not listening. Listening is essential to the success of a compatible and long lasting relationship, but let me add that bad habits in regards to listening can be changed. Communication is the very means by which we share not only our ideas, but our thoughts and feelings with others In summing up the information that I have provided you with, it is my hope that the facts laid out in this letter will help you avoid the pitfalls of conversation that plague many couples.
Remember Sam and Katie, that it is not how often you converse, but more the quality of your conversations with each other and that to be a good listener it is imperative that you make every attempt to give the conversation your full attention. It is my hope that providing you both with information to build a lasting relationship through good communications will ensure a long and happy life together. Congratulations again to both of you. Keep in mind that there are other important aspects when it comes to communicating effectively, but I have shared with both of you essential information regarding what I consider to be five of the most significant areas that often effect good communication in a relationship.
Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions of affect other people.
-Jim Rohn, Author and motivational speaker (1930-2009),.
Close relationships sometimes mask poor communication. (2011, January 24). U.S. News & World,1. doi: 2270370592 Miczo, N., Segrin, C., & Allspach, L. E. (2001). Relationship between nonverbal sensitivity, encoding, and relational satisfaction. Communication Reports, 14(1), 39-48. Retrieved July 28, 2012, from Research Library. Document ID: 72022836. Preston, P. (2005). Nonverbal communication: Do you really say what you mean? Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(2), 83-6. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global. Document ID: 814698921 Schoenberg, N. (2011, January 17). Can we talk? Researcher talks about the role of communication in happy marriages. McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Retrieved from ProQuest Newsstand. Document ID: 2240370261 Sole, K., (2011). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. (https://content.ashford.edu) Sprecher, S., & Hendrick, S. S. (2004, December). Self-disclosure in intimate relationships: Associations with individual and relationship characteristics over time. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(6), 857-877. doi:224670343