Monday, September 21, 2015

Not All Communication Is Relational: How To Know If You Are Relating When You Communicate

As a minister and counselor, I’ve sat across from countless couples who were seeking to restore, repair, or rebuild their families. When I asked what they felt the biggest problem in their relationship was, the overwhelming majority answered, “communication”. Everyone knows that communication is an essential component of healthy relationships, but did you know that not all communication is relational? Here are three signs that your communication isn’t making your relationships stronger:

Your communication is only to give or receive information.

Many people only communicate when they need to find out information. “What time is soccer practice tomorrow?” Are you picking up dinner tomorrow night or should we make something here?” “Did you pay the electric bill last month?” This sort of communication is important, and relationships struggle without it. If, however, this is the only communication that’s going on in your family, the bonds that hold you together are growing weaker by the day. Communication isn’t always about getting answers, sometimes it’s about being known. There needs to be conversations that take place simply to let the other person know what’s on your mind. Sometimes we just need to talk things out, other times we simply need to be heard.

Your communication doesn’t foster a greater understanding of the other person.

This builds on the last point. Healthy communication isn’t just about information: “how much did the plumber charge us?”, it’s about the people who are talking back and forth. The amount of the plumber's bill is important, but it’s also important to know why your wife is so afraid of the family running out of money. You should learn why your husband feels humiliated to have someone else make repairs in the house, or maybe you should find out why your spouse seems checked out about the whole process. Communicating is a way of getting to know the people around you better,and every challenge that comes up is an opportunity to communicate and connect.  If none of your conversations lead to a better understanding of the person you are talking to, then you are missing something.

Your communication is all statements and no questions.

When someone never asks questions you can assume that they either want to control the conversation they are having or that they don’t really care what you think about things. Questions open people up. When I ask a question, I am making space for a conversation to go someplace I didn’t foresee, which can be scary, but healthy.  Questions allow my conversations to become less about me and more about the person I am talking to. When two people in a relationship are willing to ask honest questions from time to time, and not simply blurt out what they think, the relationship grows stronger.

All relationships need communication, but all communication isn’t relational. Take some time today and ask the people around you a few questions and get to know them better. You will be communicating more effectively and your relationships will become more enjoyable.

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