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Communicating in a Relationship: Getting the message across

One of the most common issues that partners who present for couples counseling cite is difficulty communicating.

"We just don't know how to talk to each other."

"Every time we begin talking it just ends up in argument."

"I don't know what he's trying to say."

"What does she mean when she says that?"

When you stop and think about what communication is all about, it actually is quite a process. I'll be simplistic here in explaining it:

There's thousands of broken thoughts active and existing in our mind and in the space of a few seconds we have to process and organize those thoughts into a sentence or phrase that actually makes sense. Then, we have to verbalize that sentence or phrase using our voice (keeping in mind the way we say it, how loud or soft we say it, how quickly or slowly we say it will affect how that message comes across) and accompanying nonverbal cues (Are we rolling our eyes? Breathing a sigh of annoyance? Looking at the cell phone screen?)

And that's only half of that process.

Once aired, that message will need to be heard and received. The listener will use their ears to hear what was said and use their eyes to notice how it was said. Taken together, the message will be transmitted to the brain for further mental processing--the listener taking into account past histories and experiences, his/her current mood, and the environmental situation--(just to name a few)--and then offer a response--the cycle starting all over again.

Phew! And all of this happens in a matter of seconds.

Any surprise then that communicating with a partner can be challenging and difficult at times?

Think about how you and your partner communicate. Do you think you're communicating as well as you could? What seems to be the hardest part about communicating? What areas do you think you could do better?

Next time I'll address what aspects are fundamental for healthy and effective communication.