Talk, talk, talk, talk that’s all you want to do!… these are words that typically resonate in therapeutic offices probably all over the world. However communication, specifically within intimate relationships is about more than just talk. Generally there’s a heightened and intense desire to engage with a partner in an open, honest expression of feelings and experiences. This is a daunting and unpleasant task for many individuals. Here are some guidelines to facilitate expression of emotions, understanding nonverbal communication and learning to listen.
Emotional Expression involves truly acknowledging your feelings. The easiest way to start this exploration is through “I feel” statements like “I feel lonely”, “I feel confused” or “I feel happy”, etc. Once you complete the “I feel” statement then go deeper. Usually people don’t feel one isolated emotion, typically more than one emotion occurs simultaneously such as “I feel angry , sad and confused” or “I feel excited, scared but really happy”. Emotions are very layered and complex which is why it is important to explore deeper. After identifying these emotions then ask yourself “Why?” This short but powerful word can help you get to the reason, the foundation for why you are having the feelings you are. While this may all sound tremendously annoying or even uninviting, it can be very helpful to not only your self-actualization process but also to the level of intimacy achieved in your relationship. Awareness of one’s emotions is great because it provides insight into how we communicate verbally and nonverbally with others. An example of this could be “I feel angry and disappointed because I was really looking forward to our dinner plans.” while your brows are furrowed (the nonverbal component).
Feelings, Talking and Acting are different behaviors. In communicating, it is imperative to know the difference. Feeling involves your emotions and your thoughts, Talking is a behavior. It can occur verbally or nonverbally. Acting is the behavior that connects what you are feeling and talking about. It is helpful to determine if the feelings, talking and acting experience is appropriate to the situation. A possible example to this may be becoming enraged with someone because they forgot to return something (a call, the videos, your hairdryer, something benign). Certainly it is valid to have your feelings but instead of talking about what is being experienced you decide in a rage to break up. In learning how to appropriately communicate with your partner a simple rule of thumb is to communicate with others in the same way you want to be communicated with. You are then modeling a behavior.
Nonverbal Communication has many purposes, one of which is to convey emotions that we may be resistant, unaware or unable to express. This is most appropriately suited to express feelings than actual ideas though many people attempt to convey ideas nonverbally. One of the most popular is the “I want to have sex” idea in a nonverbal fashion. The challenge to nonverbal communication is that it can be ambiguous and is open typically to multiple interpretations. An example of the ambiguousness in relation to the idea of “I want to have sex” could be a simple kiss. For some it is a green light to move forward and for others it may be an “I like you” gesture. This is why it becomes necessary for our nonverbal communication to become congruent with our verbal communication.
Listening is also an important part to the communication process. Listening is comprised of the following steps:
Hearing the message – Though hearing a physiological component to listening it is just as important to the process
Attending to the message — This is the psychological component to listening. Here you internalize and process the message Understanding a message — Here we simply make sense of the message
Responding to the message – this could involve clarifying your understanding of the message, providing feedback to the message
Remembering — This is ability to recall the information (the good and the bad moments) which is typically an important piece to gaining intimacy and trust in a relationship.
All of these tips to communication should you put you a good road to better communication with your partner.