Communication is one of the most significant and effective ways in which human beings can become close enough to develop a love bond. Good communication can notably enhance relationship satisfaction, with couples that learn to communicate effectively reporting increased satisfaction within their relationships. While the differences in communication may be obvious among people who speak different languages, it may be surprising to learn that often people who speak the same “language” really appear to speak a different “language”.  This blog post will reveal two ways to enhance communication, while indicating common misunderstandings that may occur during communication.

One couple with whom I worked experienced the consequences of communication breakdown when discussing time frames. To one partner, hearing the words, “I will see you soon” or “I will be home soon” implied that their partner would be home within half an hour. To the partner who was saying the words, they meant that they would be home any time in the next 4 or 5 hours. While this may seem an insignificant discrepancy, it was the cause of much angst within the relationship as the partner who heard the words would prepare themselves for the imminent arrival of their partner – only to be disappointed when the time frame differed so significantly from their interpretation. To remedy this situation was relatively simple as I suggested that each person repeat back their meaning of the words they just heard to the other, so as to clarify what they had understood. So, if one partner said “I will see you soon” the other partner might respond with “Just to clarify, does that mean you will be home by X o’clock? This allowed the other partner the opportunity to resolve the misunderstanding.  This process of clarification may be used in many situations which one might recognise discrepancies in communication and understanding.

Another factor that could potentially confuse communication may be attributed to differences between genders. There is a common held belief that women talk more readily about their feelings and emotions, which for the most part is true.  This is mainly because women communicate to develop rapport and intimacy, while often men communicate to impart information and knowledge. While there is no right or wrong way to talk, it could be useful to appreciate such differences when in communion with your partner (if they are of the opposite gender). A regular criticism that I hear from frustrated women is that their partners seldom listen to them, often offering solutions in place of empathy or understanding. Based on the above understanding, this might be due to the fact that men tend to perceive conversations as a manner of exchanging information or fixing problems.

Bearing this difference in mind, a suggestion for remedying such a discrepancy could be an exercise to complete when one joins with their partner in the evening.  Creating a space for 30 minutes at the end of the day, it might be useful to report on the events of the day. Allow 10 minutes for each person to talk about the events of their day, including what feelings or thoughts were experienced and an overall feeling that is present at the time. During these 10 minutes, the other person is encouraged to remain silent and truly hearing what the other is communicating.  Rather than formulating a response, analysing an opinion or seeking solutions, the silent partner simply listens to everything the talking partner has to say. In the remaining 10 minutes, partners then have the space to communicate what listening to the other brought up in their own thoughts, feelings or emotions.  It might be wise to even ensure that once the 30 minutes is complete, partners thank the other for their contribution and the conversation is wrapped up.  This way, each person can feel heard, without an over-analysis of the discussion.

By practicing the above tips, relationship maintenance and even improvement may begin to occur.  Better understanding those who are close to us, while clarifying the messages we receive and impart might start to augment relationships in new ways. Better communication can lead to increased closeness among people in relationships because getting to know another more intimately has proven to augment relationships while cultivating a more intimate atmosphere.