I was watching a nature documentary the other day and saw a clip of a pod of whales searching for a lost member. The next clip was about a baby deer uniting with a parent. All of these are forms of communication. As creatures designed for community, the way we engage with one another is vital to vibrant living.
Simply put, there is nothing more important for a relationship or an organization than communication.
We communicate all the time through a variety of mediums and in a variety of relationships. We communicate messages we aren’t even trying to communicate. It is such a prevalent part of the human experience.
As such, it is important for us to be intentional about the way we communicate. So much can go wrong. There is no single factor more determinative of the health of a relationship than the participants’ ability to effectively communicate with one another.
In order to build a foundation for effective communication, you have to start with trust.
On one hand, trust can be a binary thing. You either do or don’t trust someone. On the other hand, there is a spectrum of trust – you might find room for skepticism or good reason to tread lightly with your vulnerabilities.
Perhaps the best way to say this is that the parties involved need to agree upon the level of trust between them. Without a modicum of trust, communication is impossible. If we believe someone’s motives to be evil or ill-conceived, everything they try to communicate will be viewed through that lens, batted down at the castle gates with no real chance of getting through.
Define A Win
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about ineffective communication is when you and your partner just cannot get on the same page. It is like you are speaking two different languages. Really, you are focused on two different things, one of you wanting to harp on one element and another something completely different. This leads to a sort of trench warfare that can make progress all but impossible.
The best way to combat this is to cut it off at the pass. Set for yourselves a vision for togetherness– why are you in a relationship? You’ll often hear couples yelling “What do you want me to do?!” or “What is it you are trying to achieve?!” They are on to something. A lot of our dysfunction is the result of competing ends. If we can unify our goal, it takes the competition and lack of clarity out of communication, or at least greatly reduces it.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
There really is very little rest from communication within a relationship. Did you know only 7% of what we communicate is verbal? Seven percent! We are saying stuff to each other all the time with our facial expressions, the posture of our bodies, and the tone of our voice.
The ever-present challenges of communication often make us want to give up. We want to just “keep the peace” by not saying anything and pretending at a kind of false harmony that is more destructive in the long run than healthy conflict.
So, have some grace for one another, be honest, and be intentional about the messages you are communicating.