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Communicating in relationships can be a challenge. After-all there is the added aspect of the emotional aspect that needs to be managed at times in order to have desirable conversation outcomes.
There are all sorts of ways to improve communication in relationships. From improving one’s listening skills to being more constructive in how we give feedbacks, all of these are very effective ways to improve communication between partners in relationships.
However, there is one sure-fire approach we can use to ensure that our communication stays healthy while having the level of interactions we desire in our relationship.
What is that sure-fire approach? It is quite simply openly expressing a desire to hear more of what the other person is saying.
This of course can be expressed in different ways, but however we choose to express this desire, it comes down to one thing – creating an environment where the level of comfort and desire to really interact is significantly enhanced.
What Are These 3 Words?
The 3 words we are referring to are these: “I hear you.”
Now, of course some context is necessary here, because there is also the issue of attitude. These words can be said with a range of different attitudes which may give a completely meaning one even though it’s the same 3 words that are being said.
For these 3 words to have the desired effect of improving communication, they must be said with complete sincerity. There should never be not even a hint of cynicism or sarcasm when they are said.
In his book, The Relationship Cure, Dr. John Gottman speaking about what is communicated in relationships, states that only 7% of that meaning comes from the spoken word, while 38% comes from the tone of voice in communication.
That is huge. So often we focus so much on what we want to say but completely ignore tone.
Essentially, what we are talking about here is ensuring that we are communicating with the right tone. Tone is more about how a thought is packaged and delivered. It can be by way of the spoken word or by way of an attitude, or any non-verbal element associated with what we are expressing verbally.
So let’s back up here a bit. Our objective is to create and foster an environment where conversation is free, open, and as close to the truth of our reality as we can put it.
Assuring our partner that we are listening, listening with understanding, a sense of empathy goes a far way in cultivating that environment to create effective communication in our relationship.
Why Does It Work
Here are some reasons why this approach can really help communication in relationships.
- It immediately creates connection – The one sure thing the speaker needs to know – the person being spoken to, the “I”, – is “hearing” the person doing the speaking, the “you.”
- Puts more “heart” into the conversation. More heart in the conversation means more empathy. More empathy is evoked when there is an explicit expression of being able to relate to what someone is saying. Even if in conversing, we are not fully there with the person we are conversing with, doing so initiates and put in motion the process of being empathetic once done with sincerity.
- It Disarms. Not only does this expression, “I hear you” opens us up to a higher commitment of engaging in the conversation, it somewhat disarms the person doing the talking as they become more confident in expressing their feelings and viewpoint. This is extremely important in creating trust that what is being said will be accorded the level of import that it deserves and will be treated with respect. The more disarming the environment is, the more likely this is to happen.
- Foments Cooperation Rather Than Division
While disagreements can be healthy, too often in communicating in relationships communication gets misinterpreted, misread and result in antagonism instead of cooperation.
We can have healthy disagreements without antagonism by ensuring that our communication is done in a manner that demonstrate a willingness to relate sincerely to the other person’s point of view.
Even in disagreements a feeling of cooperating to understand each person, where each person stands, or even why they think like they do moves the conversation to a place of mutual satisfaction rather than mutual dissatisfaction.
When Is It Most Effective?
Using these 3 words, or any iteration, is most effective in a situation where one party is feeling hurt or has been done wrong.
Is it effective in other situations? Of course. However, in a situation where someone is feeling hurt or wronged the stakes for failing to connect or even understand is higher. The conversation could go off the rails pretty quickly if someone who is feeling hurt is made to feel they are either being ignored or not being given the level of hearing they need.
As mentioned before, particularly in situations of hurt, it is extremely important that the “I hear you” expression, in whatever form it takes or whatever iteration, be done with utmost sincerity.
What Does The Research Says About This Approach to Communication in Relationships
Research has established that active listening in general improves communication outcomes in all conversation environments. The “I hear you” approach is just a very basic but powerful form of active listening.
While other forms of active listening, such as “restating,” briefly takes away control from the other person, the “I hear you” approach hardly even interrupts while creating an immediate feedback loop to let the speaker know how he or she is being received.
Use the “I hear you” approach in your relationship conversations, especially when trying to work through disagreements. Of course you will do so with sincerity and complete respect for the other party.
While communicating in relationships can be a real challenge, challenges themselves can result in a more positive environment bring created. This happens when partners in the relationship really commit to working to resolve issues through by employing better communication skills.
Try this 3-word approach next time you communicate with your partner. It will do wonders for the health of your relationship.