The church Debbie and I attend recently hosted a marriage conference. Whether or not you are married, it's clear that communication is an important aspect of all relationships. Here are some highlights from the presentation:
Communication occurs in three ways: verbal, vocal, and visual. It's not just what you say that communicates a message to the other party, it's also your intonation and body language. According to the presenter, these two latter nonverbal modes of communication make up 90% of how the message is received - whether as intended or not.
Some people are more concise while others take a circuitous route to convey their messages. Some people express how they feel whereas others express what they think. And then there are those who jump in when a thought comes to mind whereas others wait their turn.
Understanding another person's styles can help communicators connect more effectively.
Check out this hierarchy of communication:
Level 1: Sharing cliches and superficiality (least risky)
Level 2: Sharing information and facts (what you know)
Level 3: Sharing ideas and opinions (what you think)
Level 4: Sharing values and emotions (what you feel)
Level 5: Sharing intimacy and transparency (who you are)
As couples or friends move to higher levels of communication, they become more vulnerable and are willing to take higher risk, with the hope of a deeper connection with the other person.
Where are you on this scale? And if you ask your spouse or friend to perform the same self-rating, how will it compare with yours?
Listening is the "other half" of communication. It can be done well or not at all, moving along a scale from ignoring to pretending to selectivity to attentiveness to empathy. Listening may be the most important aspect of communication because it seeks to understand the other person's perspective, thoughts, and feelings. It's an act of service.
Nonetheless, you can't hope to know what another person is thinking unless he tells you - and vice versa. It's the responsibility of any communicator to convey an important message that hasn't already been heard and understood. Doing so thoughtfully and respectfully increases the likelihood it will take root.