Why is communication so important for your relationship?
Communication is important, practically essential, for a long-distance relationship or for any relationship to succeed. However, the critical aspect of communication goes beyond the simple verbal cues that we associate to the most. In fact, actively listening can become the superhuman power needed to save a conversation, to bring you and your partner together and in extreme cases, can prevent the complete breakdown of your relationship.
This is because, when you are able to truly listen to your partner and you can put your own personal feelings aside both of you and your significant other can learn and grow from that experience.
To start with the basics, communication has 5 main forms:
1) Verbal Communication
2) Non-Verbal Communication
3) Written Communication
4) Visual Communication
In this blog, we are going to breakdown and analyze why listening is important and how it ties with the other forms of communication.
Let’s start with a scenario:
You and your partner have been dating for just over 6 months. The honeymoon phase of your relationship is just starting to die out. Things that use to seem easy and simple are becoming more and more challenging as the days go on. For example, you pick-up the phone and begin video calling your partner. You start telling them about your day. Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, you notice that your partner’s interests seem to be low. You look at your phone and see that they are partially listening to you while also working on something else on their computer. You get annoyed.
You wanted them to pay attention to you, especially since the time you have on a video call is the only time you get to see each other. However, instead of voicing it out, you become quiet and start doing something else as well. A few minutes go by and your partner notices that you aren’t speaking. They ask “What’s wrong?”. You ignore them. Your partner says, “Look, I know you were talking but I told you a couple of days ago that I had a deadline for this assignment due today and that I really needed to do well on it. I thought you would understand.” Now you feel offended.
Let’s take a pause here:
What happened in this situation? What went wrong?
I’ll give you a second to think about it…
Let’s start with the caller: the caller was excited to speak with their significant other. They jumped quickly into talking about their day without grasping or taking the time to understand what disposition their partner was in when they picked up the phone. This is important because it wasn’t until the middle of the conversation that they realized their partner wasn’t listening. Why hadn’t they noticed earlier? They were too focused on their feelings, their day and their time. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the caller was doing this on purpose or had any ill-intent, but their action still had a negative effect.
The caller wanted their partner to be actively engaged with their story and their life but didn’t take a moment to do the same for them. Somewhere in the conversation they noticed their partner wasn’t listening and reacted negatively. They tried to ignore and when their partner gave an explanation, their negative feelings grew. They didn’t want to listen to their words because they were hurt by their actions.
This is how non-verbal and verbal forms of communication interact. The silent treatment followed by half listening, then choosing to ignore their partner’s explanation, as it was not satisfactory, edge this conversation into a potential argument.
Now let’s talk about the receiver of the call: the receiver was having a busy day. They had an assignment they needed to concentrate on. They reminded their partner about the due date a couple of days ago and thought that they would understand that their time together would have to be limited until the assignment was handed in; because this was important to the receiver. However, the receiver didn’t take the time, at the beginning of the conversation, to vocalize their current predicament. Instead, they let their partner talk as if it was background noise and insignificant to their present moment.
Even if the receiver didn’t mean to make their partner feel like that, their partner’s time is just as valuable as their own. Multi-tasking can be useful but when it comes to speaking to other people, multi-tasking leaves a rude impression. You can make someone feel like there are not worth the time it requires to give them your full attention. People’s perception of your actions, words and engagement, matter.
The receiver was able to pinpoint that something had changed. The silence. When the receiver finally noticed, instead of acknowledging that person’s feelings and then mediate the problem through active listening and speaking, they made the caller feel as though it was all their fault.
So, what should these two people do?
It’s not an easy solution but it is one that is likely to achieve the most amount of success. It requires both parties to first put down their emotional guard. By emotional guard, I am implying the part of you that doesn’t want to let go of the negative feelings you feel in that moment. The part of you that would refuse to say sorry because you can’t possibly imagine how you were in the wrong. The part of you that wants the other person to make you feel better before you calm down and try to understand the situation, from your side and theirs.
Both you and your partner have the responsibility to let your guard fall. To be open-minded to the situation. To listen.
It is theorized that we spend 25% of our time listening effectively. Not listening but listening EFFECTIVELY. What do you think you're doing the other 75% of your time?
Listening effectively is a muscle you need to exercise. Catch yourself when you become so engrossed in your feelings and thoughts that you can’t hear the other person. Widen your “me” to “we”. What can “we” do to make this situation better for “us”? Think of your partner as an extension of yourself. Don’t neglect them as you wouldn’t neglect yourself.
On the other hand, it is okay for you to feel frustrated. Both people in this scenario did something frustrating, but you also need to know when its time to put your guard down, listen effectively and be both open and receptive to what your partner has to say; and they should be doing the same for you.
You and your partner shouldn’t strive for perfection in this. It is impossible to be perfect, but you should strive to continuously put in the effort and hard work that will enhance your relationship. Things can always get better, don’t let a momentary frustration turn into a long-term regret.
Converse Willkomm, A., 2018. Five Types of Communication - Goodwin College of Professional Studies. [online] Goodwin College of Professional Studies. Available at: <https://drexel.edu/goodwin/professional-studies-blog/overview/2018/July/Five-types-of-communication/>.
Osten, Caren. "Are You Really Listening, Or Just Waiting To Talk?". Psychology Today, 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-right-balance/201610/are-you-really-listening-or-just-waiting-talk.
Williams, Scott. "Effective Listening". Wright.Edu, 2021, http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/listening.htm#:~:text=However%2C%20research%20shows%20that%20the,at%20only%20about%2025%25%20efficiency.&text=While%20most%20people%20agree%20that,improve%20their%20own%20skill%20level.&text=To%20a%20large%20degree%2C%20effective%20leadership%20is%20effective%20listening.
Very insightful! My partner and I often struggle here. While we’re on the phone he’ll start playing games or reading and I get very frustrated, but part of me understands he’s trying to wind down after a stressful day, but it’s inconvenient because I want to share quality time by talking to one another.