By Timothy Houston
It has been said that money problems and infidelity are the top two causes of divorce and failed relationships, but I believe that it is the inability to communicate about these problems that is the root cause of these issues.
When it comes to male/female relationships, effective communication has become even more complicated. When a message is sent, it is filtered through ears, eyes, mind and heart of the receiver, but the true meaning is often lost in translation. Effective communication is achieved when a message is clearly transmitted by the sender and clearly understood by the receiver. If the inability to communicate effectively about emotionally-charged issues is at the root of most failed relationships, then learning how to communicate effectively is a key ingredient in keeping relationships from failing.
First, to keep effective communication intact, avoid the appearance of an interrogation. Part of the challenge of effective communicating is determining the reason for the message. Share your experience first. Men often view a barrage of back-to-back questions as an interrogation and not as communication. When you share your examples, experiences, perspective first, it allows the other person to get a better understanding of the reason for the conversation. Sharing your thoughts first also sets the tone, attitude, and disposition of the sender and the expectation of the receiver.
Also, to help with effective communication, share at the level of detail that you would like to receive. This is an important part of the reason of sharing first. If you want a blow-by-blow response, sharing first allows you to give blow-by-blow examples. To ask for details without being willing to share details is not effective communication. Conversation is a process of giving and taking. It requires openly and willingly sharing at the level of detail that you would like to receive.
Secondly, to keep effective communication intact, confirm the message. This is the “what I heard you say” part of communicating. Emotions often get in the way of clear communications. When a message is shared, it is filtered by the thoughts, experiences and preconceived ideas of the receiver.
What the sender says and what the receiver hears can often be lost in translation. Confirming the message allows the sender the opportunity to clear up any miscommunication or misunderstanding. This is even more critical when the discussion involves emotionally charged issues such as infidelity and financial problems.
To help improve emotionally charged discussions, give your undivided attention. Remove any and all distractions. Real communication requires undivided attention. Turn off the cell phone, television and video games or any other action that require your attention. You cannot communicate effectively when you are engaged in other activities. Some conversations should not be held until the right environment exists. This is the responsibility of both the sender and the receiver. Choosing the right time to have the conversation improves the likelihood of effective communication.
Finally, to keep effective communication intact, talk more, text less. Texting is a poor form of communication. The messages are usually abbreviated and do not include punctuations. They also are riddled with acronyms that may be known only to the sender. If the message has the potential to be emotionally charged, pick up the phone and call the other person. If all possible, have these discussions face-to-face. Face-to-face meetings are the most effective, and they should be used whenever as the first option.
Also remember to use body language that supports the message. This is even more important when communicating over the phone. A smile can be heard through the telephone. When communicating in person, 55 percent of the message is non-verbal so be mindful of the message your body language is sending.
The good news is that relationships can survive financial issues and infidelity. The ones that do did it using effective communication as one of the tools to bridge the divide. Remember to keep the other person in the forefront of your mind during emotionally-charged discussion. Winning the argument at the expense of losing the other person is not good. Share openly and honestly and expect the same in return. Following these simple guidelines can help lead to the effective communication needed to keep your relationship from failing.
Timothy Houston is an author, minister, and motivational speaker committed to guiding positive life changes in families and communities. To get copies of his books, for questions, comments or more information, go to www.tlhouston.com.