Communication is a Funny Thing

by Michael Garner, M.A., LPC

Communication is a funny thing. Every time I ask couples in my office what it takes to communicate effectively, I generally hear very similar things. Listening is almost always listed as one of the top skills for effective communication. While some clients look at me with a blank stare and say something like, ‘thats why we are here to see you!’, others have a really good understanding of communication. I had one couple in my office who articulated it very well and clearly. Others say they have taken communication classes, yet their communication at home is not going well.

It is funny how we might have a ‘good idea’ of how to do something, but not do well when it comes to application and putting it into practice. One couple who had a very good definition of communication went right into a pretty intense argument within just a few minutes of articulating how to communicate well. Nearly everyone I come in contact with, including my own conversations at home and growing up have some very similar patterns. I hear a lot of blame, criticism, hurtful words, defensiveness, and even complete shut down at times. Emotions can run wild during conversations that contain anything other than basic inquiries or pleasantries. Emotions often get in the way and distort the initial point of the conversation to begin with.

Although most couples say listening is important, I see most of us (I am guilty of this at times as well) listen so that we can come up with some sort of response. Why do we do this? Do we want to be right, make the other person recoil as hurtful words are being hurled their way? Do we want to show how funny we can be with a sarcastic or quick witted answer?

Instead of listening to respond or listening to win an argument, why can’t we listen to understand? I have talked to countless wives and mothers who simply want to know that their husband or child hears them and understands their perspective. I talk to husbands who are so tired of the critical and harsh words and simply want their wives to respect their point of view (respect does not mean agree). I have come to understand most of us are OK with disagreeing and seeing things differently, as long as we feel the other person truly understands us. It is then, and only then that the conversation can go to the next level to figure out how to proceed.

My challenge for you is pay attention to how often you ‘listen to respond’ and begin to ‘listen to understand’. This one small step will revolutionize your communication. Stop, listen to key words, pay attention to the emotional driving force behind their words and restate what you heard the other person just say. Slow down, step back, and watch the conversation change right before your eyes.

Michael Garner MA, LMFT, LPC

is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Michael earned his Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Liberty University and his Bachelor’s degree from Southeastern University. Read More

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