- Turn On and Tune In.
Send your message. This means making a statement or asking a question that you intend to have acknowledged. It does not mean launching an attack, calling names, dumping anger or starting an argument. The first transmission sets the tone for the entire exchange, so the first message carries a great weight of responsibility. Start messages with “I, “I feel, “I think,” or I was wondering what you think, instead of beginning with “You,” “You never,” or “You always.” Speak only for yourself, not against your partner.
I- messages almost always open communication, while you-messages tend to be received as accusations or attacks. “You always take your mother’s side over me” is not as effective as “I feel lonely and unappreciated when I think I am second-best to your mother.”
Listen. Concentrate on the reply. Pay attention to what is being transmitted to you and set aside your counter-statements. Make every effort to be interested and alert to your partner’s message and treat it as important if you expect any interest in return. Listening then becomes active response and assistance, is sprinkled with comments like, “Tell me more,” “I’m with you so far,” “I’m not sure I understand, can you explain that?” and Would you go over that again for me? Picture yourself as an interviewer not a prosecuting attorney, nor a defendant in the witness chair.
Give feedback. Feedback is crucial. Repeat and restate in your own words what you have heard from your partner’s message. This is done with more than words. Keep eye contact, lean forward, nod your head. Showing that you hear and care about what is being said is more important than understanding or agreement. Just being heard and having someone’s complete attention is a great gift. It is grace. Helpful feedback is such statements as I am not sure I got it all, but is this what you meant __________? or Is this what you just said ________________? or I could be wrong, but I thought I heard you say _________, is that right?
Few people like to be interrupted, but short feedback summaries of what we understood from our partner are usually welcomed. Feedback means you are interested and have been listening.
Again. Repeat the Sending/Receiving/Acknowledging cycle, as you both talk and listen, until you mutually acknowledge that at least some understanding has been accomplished on one topic. Do not push for agreement or compliance from your partner! Remember this is an exchange
of information, not an argument over who is right or wrong. Please do not fall into the trap of using the word understand to mean, agree with me.
- Sign Off.
This is the “over and out” part of completed communication. Sharing information is your objective. Be satisfied with appetizers. Try to enjoy such tidbits of learning from your partner. This will encourage you to be a bit hungrier for more. Discussions that go on and on often turn into arguments or power struggles that demand a winner and a loser. No one learns much in argument. Each participant tends to recite his or her side, gaining nothing of value in return. If anyone wins, the couple loses. Communication is a win/win proposition built upon modest exchanges. Give yourselves a break. Accept what you have learned from each other, and then turn off your set. Not everything needs to be said all at once. Rest Reflect. Congratulate yourselves for not quarreling. Then try again.
Be thankful for sending and receiving, however small the first bits of information may be. Your messages to each other can be weapons or gifts, curses or blessings. If you view your partner not as a foe but as a friend, you will find that enjoying talking and listening to each other becomes easier day-by-day. And the relationship cannot fail to benefit as a result.
Imagine that your communication is like a two-way radio, like a C.B. The first thing anyone must do is turn on the set and tune in the channel. All good communication is intentional. Being ready to send and receive is essential. Know that you are seeking information and wish to exchange some as well.