March/April 2002 Spirituality
by Theun Mares
Joe and Susan, an otherwise normal couple, had problems communicating
with one another. Whenever Joe voiced his opinion, Susan would interrupt
him mid-sentence because she thought she knew exactly what he was going
to say. Then, she would go off on a wild tangent while Joe became frustrated.
This situation is all too familiar as many people live in worlds needlessly
alienated from loved ones due to poor communication skills. For
these people, miscommunication causes problems ranging from boredom
to break-ups to utter frustration and despair. The good news is that
it does not need to be this way.
Have you ever spend time watching two people talking? I mean, really
watched them closely and tried to follow their conversation? Did you
feel that they were communicating well, or was something missing? True,
effective communication is about more than getting across your point
of view. It is about opening yourself up to others so that they can
feel from the bottom of their heart that you have enough care and respect
to understand who they are. Effective communication is about being there
Assume You Will Be Misunderstood
We tend to think that whatever we say is always clear and obvious and
easily understood. But others dont always see things as we do,
and we need to make allowances for this inescapable reality of life.
We each have our own view of the world that acts as a filter through
which we perceive everything that happens in our lives. This inescapable
tendency to experience life through our own inner, interpretive filter
naturally includes our perception of what other people are saying to
Most importantly, we need to take embrace responsibility for our dynamic
role in the interpersonal relationships of our lives. It is vital to
realize that relationships are two-way streets and that we are always,
one way or another, contributing either positively or negatively to
the way we communicate with others.
Be Honest & Avoid Blame
Speak the truth even if it is not what others wish to hear.
Keeping quiet or merely agreeing with others, especially when you know
differently, will only make you a partner in crime and will
not serve anyone.
The first step to improve communication is saying honestly and clearly
what is on your mind. If you make others hear your truth, they will
respect you and, in time, probably thank you for it. However, being
totally honest does not give you license to be cruel -- it is about
being frank. This is not about winning a battle but communicating to
be understood and to experience the realities of others.
So, state the facts as you perceive them, as objectively as you can,
and say how you are feeling as a result. Avoid using language or a tone
of voice that implies blame. And don't try to score points or to make
the other person look bad. By being as objective as possible, and
communicating about the facts rather than the personalities involved
in the discussion, you open the door to actually being understood while
giving another the opportunity to state their case.
Make Allowances for Your Own Self-Image
Self-image forms our view of the world and is responsible for the way
we filter our perceptions. So, if the self-image of the person we are
speaking with is filtering everything we say to them, we can be sure
that our own self-image will also be interfering with what they are
trying to say to us. Because of this filter, we need to be aware of
our self-image and recognize how it affects our perception of everything,
including the way we hear others.
Learn to Listen
If we accept that true communication is plagued by difficulties in
the way we express ourselves, as well as how we perceive others, it
is easy to see how important it is to learn to listen properly
how to listen with every fiber of our being. This is different to type
of listening we are probably used to. Normally, there are all sorts
of things going on in our minds when others speak to us. Listening with
all our mind and awareness means that we become open to what others
are saying, without interrupting them, without justifying our own position
in our minds, and without mentally formulating a response while the
other person is talking.
Remember the Big Picture
Effective communication is always a means to an end, be it to foster
better work relationships or to maintain a healthy marriage. Therefore,
when you are challenged to communicate your thoughts and feelings to
another, always remember the bigger picture and keep it at the front
of your mind. By focusing on the bigger picture, you will be more objective
and avoid getting caught up in pettiness. And by developing the ability
to be objective, it will be easier to view everything that happens,
both bad and good, as simply opportunities to grow together, whatever
the situation may be.
Theun Mares is an expert on personal growth based on the Toltec
approach to life. He is the author of 6 books about self-discovery and
life enrichment. In This Darned Elusive Happiness, he shows that
interpersonal conflict is a barrier to true happiness and building successful
relationships and explains how to understand conflict and develop skills
to deal with it constructively. For more information about Mares' books
and retreats or to learn more about Toltec, visit www.toltec-foundation.org.