Marriage

Why Your Words Matter – and How It Affects Your Relationships

Everywhere you look, you find articles and discussions about communication. Some give advice about how to improve communication, while others simply point out the importance of effective communication. You can’t look at social media without something popping up about this subject.

It stands to reason that we all understand this is an issue of significance within all different types of relationships. But what does communication really mean?

According to dictionary.com, communication is the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated; the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.

Communication is far more than just verbal, more than just the words we choose, even thought that is one important aspect. It also includes all sorts of non-verbal signs and signals as well. You are literally communicating every minute of every day, even when you are sleeping.

You might be wondering what the heck I am talking about! But think about it. When you are sleeping, you are sending a message to others. The message is, “I am tired. I am sleeping right now. I am not available to you right now.”

Similarly, when you are sitting on the couch reading, you are sending a message. This time, the message is, “I am relaxing with my book right now. I am taking some time for myself to do something I enjoy.” When you roll your eyes or flip somebody off, that is most definitely communicating as well.

So, as you can see, it is quite clear that communication is far more than just the spoken word.

Speaking of the spoken word, it is important to understand that both the words we choose and the way we speak them both have an impact on communication.

For example, if your husband says, “Let’s have a barbecue tomorrow night and invite our friends over,” and you reply, “sounds great,” you might say that with a joyful tone to your voice implying that you really like this idea, or you might say it with a dark and sarcastic tone, indicating that you actually hate this idea.

Maybe you just don’t feel like doing all the work that goes into entertaining, but rather than choosing words that indicate that, you are communicating meaning through your delivery of different words. This is what people mean when they say, “It’s not what you said, but how you said it that upset me.”

The truth of the matter is that what you say AND how you say things are equally important. Effective and appropriate communication dictates that you understand this.

Failure to recognize this fact often leads to misunderstandings, anger and resentment.

Here are some tips for understanding and improving how you communicate

  1. Choose your words very carefully. Actually think before you speak. Ask yourself how these particular words might be received.
  2. Be mindful of how you deliver those words. What kind of intonation and expression are you using?
  3. Stop and ask yourself if there is a better to communicate this message. If so, choose to do it the better way.
  4. Consider what your body language saying. Are you too close? Are you talking right in someone’s face? Kindly looking into her eyes and holding her hands?
  5. Consider who you are communicating with, and take their own personality and sensitivities into account. If you know your wife is sensitive to criticism, then a joke about her outfit probably won’t be received as funny, whereas someone else might find it hilarious.
  6. Above all else, remember that you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that you communicate to others what it is you are actually trying to communicate to them. Ask if they understand what you are trying to say. Try again a different way if they haven’t heard what you’re really trying to say.

While all of this may sound daunting and intense, with enough practice it really becomes simple and second nature. Start by just asking yourself after the fact what you might have done better, and slowly but surely, you will get the hang of it.

Keep repeating the steps above, and eventually, you will be the great communicator that you deserve to be. All of your relationships can improve with better communication.

Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT

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