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Effective Communication: Improving Your Relationships

Good communication is essential for any personal to work-related relationship. Good communication skills help build trust, connection and improve conflict resolution. Communication is about expressing and understanding each other, and in most situations, there’s no such thing as over-communicating.

Even with the best effort, messages can reach others in a distorted way.

Our communication style is learned mainly in childhood. By observing others' interactions, we learn how to address people on all kinds of social occasions, and this is generally enough. We constantly communicate and adapt conversations to the situation, using different verbal and non-verbal language with friends, partners, and colleagues. But, despite the attention we put into it, miscommunication is one of the most experienced challenges we face daily in every kind of relationship.

There is no communication that is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.

Luigina Sgarro

What's the reason behind that?

There is more than one answer to that question, different levels of awareness, backgrounds, experiences, triggers and communication styles. These set the basis of how communication is experienced for each person creating their own filters when expressing themselves and receiving messages. This added to the idea that the main contribution to a conversation is non-verbal communication. No wonder understanding each other appears so tricky. A lot can go wrong when we deliver a message; if emotions are involved, things become even more complicated.

Even if you are saying nothing, you are saying something, as body language determines 55% of communication. The percentage for tone and emphasis is 38%, turning out to be way more important than the remaining 7% of the impact for content or words.

The Relationship Expectations Gap

We tend to put high expectations in our relationships, causing us high levels of frustration when we feel misunderstood and expectancies are unmet. For example, we expect our partner to make us happy, fulfil our needs, know what we need, understand our mood swings, guess our wishes, be ready to step in when we need help and possibly do this the way we want. While these expectations may sound very reasonable in our minds, we forget that our partners are not mind-readers and do not know what we expect unless we communicate openly with one another.

Expectation gaps are the leading cause of miscommunication, as they get generally filled with assumptions, judgement and resentment. We get defensive when these feelings are set in place, and open communication becomes almost impossible.

The only way for our partners to get a clear idea of what we like and when we need them to step in is to let them know what we want. Another critical point we miss is that our partners may have different needs and perspectives about how things should be done. This is the moment when compromise and conflict resolution skills become vital.

It’s important to make sure that we’re being with each other

in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

Barack Obama

Communication Fundamentals.

Communication is essential for happy and healthy relationships. However, unless we are naturals, when communicating, keeping in mind that your body language and tone have to match the message is easier said than done. It requires being mindfully present and paying attention to how the message is received.

Miscommunication is very likely when the message does not match facial expression, posture, voice speed and tone.

As each person is unique, there is no relationship in which communication is identical. Effective communication will come from acknowledging this. Your partner may tell you precisely what they need, but it requires your awareness of their way of conveying the message to understand it.

Recognise that miscommunication is a missed opportunity to build trust and intimacy.

Your partner is very likely the person you spend the most time with, which means there’s a greater risk of misunderstandings. Therefore, any attempt to improve your communication will be rewarded.

We often underestimate the importance of non-verbal language when communicating with someone coming from a different background.

Body language communication is strongly culture-related; some gestures mean different things in different cultures. Body language and tone become even more relevant for individuals with English as a second language. This makes watching for cues in the other person's reaction to your message vital to ensure it has been delivered as you intended. Often, it is enough to smile, speak slower or reframe what has to be conveyed.

The Message and the Situation.

Stressful situations may affect how a message is delivered, as being mindful of posture, tone, and words can be challenging in trying conditions. If the situation risks creating more damage to the relationship, taking some time off and waiting for the right moment to have a conversation can allow more openness from all parties involved.

Remember that effective communication is never about being right but about understanding and reconnecting with each other. If the situation is not suitable to achieve this, wait for the right moment.

We all have filters built up through our life experiences; therefore, two different people interpret no situation exactly the same way. These filters are partly conscious, others are unconscious, and it is essential to be aware that we all have them. They create our biases, define our attitudes and stereotypes and affect our thoughts and behaviours.

Effective communication is understanding the other person's perspective.

Opening up a conversation can open up a world of new possibilities.

Michelle Lederman

Final Thoughts

Effective communication aims to understand both parties and not win an argument or decide who’s right. Therefore, it is important to remain respectful of the other person, even when you don’t like their actions or decisions. While this can be challenging in some situations, being mindful as you talk will help you remember that the other person has the same right to have a different opinion as you do.

Listen to others and explore their values and needs. When you realise that understanding is the secret to any fulfilling relationship, you’ll put constant work into how to communicate with others in ways they can understand. The effort put into improving communication, despite the challenges, demonstrates your care for others and your commitment to building healthier relationships and will soon show results.

Ask most therapists, and they will tell you that

good communication is at the heart of any successful relationship.

Sophie Winters

I offer a 15 minutes free consultation to new clients to decide if we are a good fit.

If effective communication is more challenging than you think, feel free to contact me with any further questions.

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