Building Lasting Relationships: Communication (James 1:9)
This is the third in a series of blogs on building lasting relationships. Each successive blog covers one specific reason relationships fall apart and how to avoid such an unhappy outcome in your relationships.
One of the biggest barriers to building a lasting relationship is poor communication. Communication is the oil that keeps the gears in a relationship running smoothly. Some of the best advice available on communication comes from James 1:9 where we read: “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” This verse makes a couple of important points about communication. First, listening is the key to effective communication. Second, anger shuts down effective communication.
“He never wants to talk with me and won’t listen when I want to talk.” “Talk, talk, talk. That’s all she ever does. She would rather talk than eat.” I have heard variations of these comments many times. Few things can put a relationship at risk faster than poor communication. Even when other problems are present in a relationship, poor communication is usually a contributing factor. Even when it is not the main factor causing problems in a relationship, poor communication can magnify the other factors.
Effective communication is an important tool for building and maintaining relationships. It is even more important in repairing them. In relationships, it is important that both parties be willing participants who are committed to using the communication process for the good of each other and the relationship. This is where things often break down in relationships; one party or the other is simply not interested in putting forth the effort necessary to achieve effective communication. The message implied by a lack of interest in communicating can be devastating to the relationship. It says the relationship is not worth the effort to me.
Effective communication is never easy; there are a lot of inhibitors that can get in the way and gum up the process. Some of the more common inhibitors of effective communication are these:
Differences in meaning. People have different backgrounds and levels of education. Because of this they might attach different meanings to the same words and phrases.
Insufficient trust. It is difficult to communicate with someone you don’t trust. If trust has been broken in a relationship, it will have to be re-established before effective communication is possible.
Information overload. Because of advances in technology (e.g. television, smart phones, the Internet, and social media) we are constantly bombarded by information from a thousand different sources. Information overload can lead to communication burnout, leaving partners in a relationship unwilling or unable to absorb any more information.
Interference. External distractions inhibit effective communication. Partners in a relationship who try to use their smart phones while supposedly communicating with each other will not enjoy effective communication.
Condescending tones. Nobody likes to be talked down to. A condescending tone will shut down communication faster than almost any other factor.
Listening problems. Poor listening is the most common and most serious inhibitor of effective communication. It is a documented fact that most people would rather talk than listen. This can lead to one-way conversations, and one-way conversations don’t help a relationship.
Effective listening is the key to effective communication. To be an effective listener, you must avoid the following inhibitors: impatience, lack of concentration, preconceived notions, thinking ahead, interrupting, and tuning out. In addition to avoiding these inhibitors, apply the following effective listening strategies:
Remove all distractions so there is no interference.
Look directly at the speaker with an open and welcoming expression that says, “I am interested.”
Concentrate on what is being said. Don’t let your mind wander and don’t think ahead to what you want to say.
Watch for non-verbal cues. Does what is being said verbally match what is being said non-verbally?
Make note of the speaker’s tone (e.g. angry, calm, rushed, relaxed, etc.).
Be patient. Don’t rush the speaker or put words in his or her mouth.
Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand something that is said.
Paraphrase and repeat back to the speaker what you think he or she said to you.
No matter what is said, control your emotions; don’t get angry.
Learn to be an interested, caring, attentive listener and communication in your relationship will quickly improve. When it does, the relationship will also improve.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com