Communication Skills

Communicating is one of the most important things a couple can do together to keep their relationship strong and full of vitality. In fact, without communication there is no intimacy in a relationship. Intimacy -- or literally "in-to-me-see" -- cannot exist without both partners revealing themselves through communication. Without communication, the relationship consists of guessing, interpreting, wondering, hurt feelings and perhaps sex.

I am sure you already know or can easily see the value of communication to your relationships. Simply remember how you felt in a past relationship where communication was present as compared to how you felt in relationships where there was no meaningful communication. I am sure you will look back more fondly on the relationships where there was communication. You will remember you achieved more intimacy, closeness because of communication.

As important as communication is to a relationship and as clear as most of us are about its value, communicating in a relationship is perhaps one of the more difficult and courageous actions one can take. This isn't because communication is inherently dangerous, but because revealing ourselves -- our needs, wants, and vulnerabilities -- feels dangerous, feels as if we are exposing ourselves to hurt.

This is why communication skills are critical to your relationship success. They are effective tools that show you how and what to communicate, what works and doesn't work. In light of this, I would like to share with you two powerful communication skills: creating a context and going far enough.

Creating a Context
Have you ever initiated a difficult conversation only to have the other person become immediately defensive? Have you tried to talk to someone, hoping to be heard, understood, but instead watched the person glaze over? Have you been putting off a conversation for fear of a negative reaction?

There is a key to overcoming all of the above, a key to increasing your chances of being heard and understood. The key is creating a context before you begin the conversation.

By definition the word context means the background, circumstances, framework of an issue. To create a context for the conversation is to create a background, a framework for what you are about to say. A context prepares the person for what is about to come so his/her energy can be focused on what you are saying instead of on what is coming next.

A context can include:

  • The topic you want to talk about
  • Its significance to the relationship
  • The result you would like to create
  • That you care about your partner
  • Your realization this may be difficult for him or her
  • How difficult or uncomfortable this is for you
  • How you want to be responded to
  • How you would like the conversation to be conducted
  • Benefits of resolving the issue
Initiating a conversation without putting it in context is presenting someone with an unknown, which almost always guarantees a defensive reaction. To illustrate this, let's say your boss calls you into her office but doesn't tell you why. You start to worry about all the possible reasons why she wants to see you. You assume the worst and begin preparing your defense. Or you assume the best and set yourself up to be shocked and have a reaction. As you step into her office, it is difficult for you to listen and respond appropriately. Instead, you are caught in your reactions.

What if instead your boss indicated she wanted to see you in her office to discuss your tardiness this week. Or what if she tells you that the meeting is about the good job you are doing. By having the context for the conversation you can focus on the issue at hand. You may have an emotional response, but it will be confined to the issue. Communication will flow more easily. You will be able to hear what is being said and will be in a position to respond rather than react.

As you can see, this is an important skill to have in your communication arsenal, and a good way to take care of yourself and your partner. How would giving context improve communication with your partner? It's a question you may want to think about this week.

Next week we will look at an example of two similar conversations, side-by-side, one where a context is given and one where it is not. We will also look at the second important communication skill: going far enough.

Your Relationship Coach,
Rinatta Paries

"(c) Rinatta Paries, 1998-2002. Do you know how to attract your ideal mate? Do you know how to build a fulfilling relationship, or how to reinvent yours to meet your needs? Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries can teach you the skills and techniques to attract and sustain long-term, healthy partnerships. Visit where you'll find quizzes, classes, advice and a free weekly ezine. Become a "true love magnet(tm)!"

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