“Communication is any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states.”*
Let’s break this down:
“any act” means speaking, gestures, withdrawal, behaviors, rolling the eyes…there are a lot of ways to communicate –
Communication can be intentional –
“give info about needs, desires, etc.” –
So, with all that just in one word and with so much riding on it, is it any wonder we can have problems with it?
What you heard is not what I said
Here’s another problem with communication: the meaning behind our words or tone can be interpreted totally differently than what we intended!
“Did you take out the trash?” can be interpreted as “You’re telling me I’m incompetent and forgetful” when the speaker was just wondering if they should take it out themselves. The receiver of the question might now throw out a zinger to our unsuspecting questioner and they don’t know what just happened!
If two people are having an argument where neither are really hearing the intent of the other (no communication) aren’t they really arguing over something that doesn’t exist?
If the person you are speaking to does not understand what you said and what you meant behind the words then you are not communicating.
You are communicating if when asked, “What did you hear them say?” the person you were speaking to can repeat back what you said and you agree that they truly got what you meant to say. You “communicated” exactly what you intended.
"I" statements only please
You are the only one in your head. That means you are the only one that really knows how you feel, think, what you want and don’t want, etc.
No one else has the right to tell you what you think, feel, or want. Unless they live inside you, they don’t know. That means you don’t know what they think, feel, or want either.
So, the only solution is to speak only from yourself. “I think…,” “I feel….,” “and I want…,” speak about what is in you.
Also, when you start out a sentence with “you” it will put the other person on the defensive right away.
Here are some communication choices:
You statement: “You’re always so mean to me.
I statement: I felt so sad when you did not come by when you said.
You statement: You just want to hang out with your friends and don’t care about me at all. You don’t love me.”
I statement: I miss hanging out together. I would like to spend more time with you.
You statement: You don’t care about me at all.
I statement: I feel lonely and taken for granted.
Only the “I” statements will start and hold communication. The “you” statements will pretty much guarantee a fight.
Try this communication exercise
1. Pick an issue that is unresolved and you both agree to speak about.
2. One person starts to speak and the other only listens. The speaker is only allowed to speak in “I” statements. “I felt so sad when you did not come home when you said. I thought that I would like to spend time with you because I miss hanging out together.”
3. The listener now repeats back what they heard, “What I heard you say is that you were sad cause you wanted to hang out with me and don’t like me being with my friends.”
4. Hmmm. I think the listener put some of their own stuff in there. The speaker gets to clarify: “No, I didn’t say anything about you being with your friends. What I said was that I wanted to spend time with you. I like being with you.”
5. The listeners repeat what was heard this time: “You like being with me and were sad that you didn’t get to the other night.”
6. Speaker is heard and now gets to put in a request: “Yes, I would like to ask you to call me if you are not going to come over as you said and I would like it if we had made new plans if something had come up for you.”
7. Listener can agree, disagree or modify the request: “I would like us to not make plans so far in advance but I will agree to call you if something changes when we do have plans. I will not do that very often because I like being with you too.”
8. Now they change places and the listener becomes the speaker.
By speaking in “I” statements and making sure they were heard correctly there was no need to go on the defense or attack. Both people are heard and communication about the issue takes place and is resolved.
This exercise takes practice but it really works if you stick to what you feel, think, and want rather than assuming you can read the other’s mind.