Clear communication – the key to any great relationship

By psychologist Angie Willcocks

How often have you heard that the key to a successful relationship is good communication? Or that for things to improve in your relationship you “just need to communicate better”? Whenever I read comments like these, I wonder how many people really know what ‘good communication’ means.

Good communication relies on a complex interrelationship between the sender, the receiver, the content and the method. When all goes well with communication, we feel connected and understood. When communication goes wrong and we miss the point or have our point missed, we feel upset and annoyed. When it happens regularly, we become fearful, lonely and sad.

The good news is that communication is a set of skills. We can all learn them! I know this is very simple, but let’s start with the basics:

The sender is the person who has a message to convey. This message might be simple (“I like your hair”) or more complex (“I’m grumpy when you come home from work lately because I feel worried and insecure and am not sure if you love me any more – especially since I don’t feel very confident in the way I am looking and how I am managing to keep on top of my own work load…”) The sender needs to be clear on what the message is that they want to send.

Obviously, the receiver is the person receiving the message. The content is what the message is. The method is how it is communicated.

Sometimes we communicate our message with words, other times with actions or behaviours. ‘The silent treatment’ is a very common communication method that relies on behaviours rather than words to carry the message “I’m not happy with you”. More positive communication methods that rely on behaviours rather than words are: making eye contact when someone is talking (“I’m interested”) or gently touching someone while they are upset (“I care about your feelings”).

Tips for communicating well when you are the sender:

Tips for communicating well when you are the receiver:

Communication tips for both of you:

A good book for for improving communication in your relationship is Communication Miracles for Couples by Jonathan Ross. Good luck!

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