The Goal Of Communication in Relationships
That both persons feel understood frequently, and always when the subject is important to one or the other.
Test Yourself : To learn how well you are doing, test your side of your relationship, by asking the following two questions.
- Ask yourself, "Do I understand my partner often?"
- Now ask your partner, "Do you feel understood by me, often?"
Let's examine the four possible answers.
- If you answered "yes" to both questions, things are going pretty well for you. Have a nice day.
- If the answer the question 1 is "yes" and the answer to question 2 is "no", you have some work to. You might examine the life of a person standing a railroad track, who doesn't hear the train approaching and who doesn't hear a friend warning him.
- If you're answer to question 1 is "no", and the answer to question 2 is "yes", then your partner is probably not telling their truth. Since your partner does not feel safe enough to tell you their truth, you both need some serious training.
- If you're answer to question 1 is "no" and the answer to question 2 is "no", then again both you and your partner need some serious training. You are probably living solitary lives, disconnected from each other. This type of relationship has been falling apart pretty rapidly in the last 10 years and will probably become obsolete in the next 20.
Anything other than two "yes" answers means trouble – or at least an opportunity to learn. Don’t worry or blame yourself. Most people in this culture need training. But fortunately all you need to do is the work of learning.
The Work of “Making Your Partner Feel Understood”
The first rule of this work is, "Whenever in doubt, slow down, and make your partner feel understood." Do not try to make them understand you, for this never works! Understanding takes work. No matter how much you want to be understood, they must be willing to do the work that will make you feel understood. You cannot make them be willing to do anything. If they aren't willing or able, then it is your job alone, at this point, to demonstrate understanding by making them feel understood.
To make someone feel understood, you must first understand them, and then secondly show them what it is you understand.
- The prime reason that people cannot understand each other is that they have been taught that they should agree. "Needing to agree" prevents all understanding. Learn to put “no weight” upon the sense of agreement. In fact, I think it is a good idea to distrust agreement. The chances are that if two people are agreeing, at least one of them isn't telling all their truth. And so I suggest practicing getting rid of the need for agreement.
- The second reason that people cannot understand each other is that they do not get enough data from each other. The common way we talk to each other, the give-and-take that we are all used to, includes a great deal of interruption. A person who is interrupted all the time, rarely completes their logic, or their idea. Thus their partner has little to go on in attempting to understand them and usually resorts to guesses about missing data. Get in the habit of helping each other complete their points without interruption. When you sense a missing detail, invite your partner to fill in the blank. This may slow things down a bit at first, but will make enriched communication and mutual understanding possible.
And while I am talking about speed, let me mention the subject of the control of speed. It is a simple truism, that for communication to be successful the speed of communication must be no faster than the listening ability of the slowest person present. Exceeding the speed limit of communication prevents understanding. The only person who knows that the speed limit has been exceeded is the listener. Thus the listener must develop active "putting the break on" skills, and the speaker must be willing to respond to the listener's need for slowing down. This is not an optional situation.
Giving up agreement, stopping interruption, getting all the data, and controlling the speed will contribute to the listener understanding the speaker. Remember, all people make sense all the time, within themselves. To understand a person, all you have to do is see their sense.
To make them feel understood, you have to show them what it is that you understand. I call this "bearing witness to their sense." When they hear or see you showing them your grasp of their sense, they will feel understood. MAGIC!