Learn to Communicate

Written by Geri Forsberg PhD

communicateCan you imagine what your life would be like if you couldn’t communicate? That means no tone of voice, no body language or facial expressions, no words, no alphabet. Nothing.

Effective skills in communication are necessary to maintain and increase the quality of our lives. If we can’t communicate effectively, we will be led in a direction we don’t want to go. We all have misunderstandings within our relationships. And it would be very easy to become confused, frustrated and disappointed simply because we are unable to communicate appropriately.

Broken and difficult relationships can be avoided by understanding the principles of communication, and the pitfalls we encounter.

When we know and understand the process of communication, we can actively implement the principles, hone our skills, avoid the problems and become the effective communicators that we all desire to be.

The language we use to symbolize reality is incomplete.

We will always leave something out when we’re retelling a story because we can never say everything about something. And the words we choose to describe something are not reality. They are our understanding of reality.

Do you remember the telephone game from elementary school? One child whispered a message to the next, who then passed it on down the line. By the time the message was spoken aloud at the end of its trip, it varied immensely. Why? Because each child understood the message differently and passed on what she thought were the important details.

How do we avoid the pitfall of miscommunicating reality?

Be careful in the words you choose. Be sure they symbolize what you really mean. And when you’re communicating with someone, ask questions to clarify what the person really intends to say. If you are unsure about what your colleague means when he tells you he doesn’t feel well, ask. Find out what his reality is.

What do you do if someone gets angry at you and says, “You’re all alike. I just can’t stand it.” The simplest and most natural thing to do is to react because she is angry. But imagine what would happen if you ask a simple question like, “What do you mean, we’re all alike? What can’t you stand?” Those questions and a few extra minutes allows the angry person to elaborate on her sentiments and inform you directly what is the matter. Then you can respond more appropriately.

We all see the world differently.

How we encounter the world has been influenced by who we are, our backgrounds, our education, our values and beliefs, our needs, positions, jobs, and more. In other words, we each see the world through our own set of lenses.

To become better at communicating, and to understand others’ perceptions, we need to ask questions. We need to listen. Learn to delay your reaction until you have more information so you don’t form inaccurate assumptions.

In the real world everything is extremely complex. With language, we simplify it by categorizing our words and ideas, and often the categories are either/or opposites.

In the process of simplifying things, we omit details, forget differences, ignore uniquenesses, and eliminate the various levels of meaning. When we view life through such a narrow spectrum, thinking that life is as simple as an “either/or” situation, communication breakdowns are bound to occur.

So, to guard against these pitfalls, we need to develop an open mind with each other and within our relationships. If you believe that reality is as simple as hot or cold, then you can only accept someone and accept what they say or you have to reject that person and reject what they say. However, if you have an open mind, you have more options.

In the real world everything occurs within a context.

We have probably all been misunderstood or had misunderstandings when something has been taken out of its original context.

Although we don’t fully understand how much our environment influences us, we need to consider that when we communicate. We must be able to understand the context of our own communication. And we must understand that every message we receive has its own context. By understanding these foundational principles of communication, we can avoid and even solve our communication woes.

With those principles in mind, here are five things you can begin to do today to help you become a better communicator:

  1. Ask questions. Don’t assume you understand what a person means. Once you ask a few questions, it doesn’t take long to really find out what she really means.
  2. Listen. To become a better communicator, you must be willing to listen so you can understand the other person’s perspective.
  3. Observe and be willing to verify the information you receive.
  4. Let people know what you are thinking by sharing it. By disclosing information about yourself, it aids the other person in understanding who you are and how you are understanding them.
  5. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins. If your motives are wanting to understand people and accept them for who they are, then communication will be easier. But if you set out to convince them that your way is the right way, then that’s not communication. And that’s not love.

Take some time to think about a specific communication problem (difficulty, challenge) you have had recently or in the past.

  1. In a few sentences, describe the problem.
  2. In what environment (context) did this communication problem occur? (home, extended family, workplace, other)
  3. Was the communication problem resolved? If so, was it resolved to everyone’s satisfaction? How was the communication problem resolved?
  4. What principles of communication could help you with this situation or other communication challenges in the future?

Now ask yourself some tough questions about how you communicate.

  • Am I seeking to understand the person?
  • Am I listening and really hearing what he is saying?
  • Am I expressing my own point of view so she understands what I mean?
  • Is there anything I’m doing in my nonverbal communication (tone of voice, body language, etc.) that I don’t intend to communicate?
  • Am I making a quick judgement without examining the facts?
  • Am I trying to see things from many different angles or am I just looking at things in an either/or fashion?
  • Am I adjusting my own communication patterns to suit the person I’m dealing with?

Developing your communication skills and abilities is a lifelong process. Throughout our lives we are faced with challenges in communicating effectively. You can learn to be a more effective communicator by:

  1. Observing and imitating excellent communicators.
  2. Learning from your own and others’ mistakes.
  3. Developing a conscious awareness of communication habits, patterns, styles, strengths, weaknesses.
  4. Applying principles of effective communication.

71 Responses to “Learn to Communicate”

  • Shawn Clough says:

    Me and my wife been together for almost 4 years know. At the beginnining of are relationship she was the talker and I the listener. Will after I had came out of my shyness and let her in my world that became are world, I have became very talkative. The promblem is she holds the floor As I still listen and I can’t get anything out most the time. Than when I do she gets mad because I didn’t let her finish and when she has finished after a hour, will 20min or so, than she’s done with that situation. And blows off what I have said. Some times she will start a New conversation to hod the floor. I admitted that I have a personality of cutting in while someone is talking, thats from childhood. To be heard that’s what I had to do and it didn’t work all the time. She says its rude and I say give me a chance to be heard. We both know that are communication is one of are problems that start arguements. We’ve had to many close calls of ending it. I really don’t know how much more we both are willing to keep this up when it seem that the communication is not getting any better. More of not talking and less of working on are other issues we have. It just seems to me that I’m putting in the energy and none from her. It take both of us to want are marriage to work Not working as a team all will fall apart. Know she has good start of working on all are issues together, then something changes about her and will back to the drawing board I go.

  • Sharon says:

    good article thank you for posting this-sharon

  • Sharon says:

    to Narla prayer father God i pray for Narla be with this person and I pray that this person will be able to communicate with the other person that this person will open up I pray heal this relationship I pray all of this in JESUS name amen I will pray for you– sharon

  • Narla says:

    I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone. Robin Williams

    Susan- I have been in a relationship for 15 years and your situation sounds so similar to mine.

  • Sharon says:

    to Susan I am sorry you have a man who doesn’t want to communicate at all sad prayer–father God I pray for Susan I pray for this man open his eyes to see on what he is doing to Susan and the children comfort her and I pray for Christians to come along her path even though on what she is living now I pray a healing over her body and the sores in her mouth I pray for a miracle for this marriage God I pray for this man let him see communication is a good thing even in marriages and help him talk to his wife about his concerns I do pray let him too maybe go for a counselor for help what ever is going on let him see it I pray for a miracle for him I feel for you communication is key to a marriage its sad that he doesn’t talk and ignores you I am praying for you all I love talking too and won’t hate it if my mate didn’t talk at all I can’t imagine on what you are going through God be with you at this time.– sharon

  • susan says:

    I have lived with this man 12 years. He is not a quiet man, but just does not bother to talk and when he does he can not say more than a sentence . Trying to understand what he is on about is hard. He speaks like a mouse. He can sit through an entire meal out at a pub and say nothing more than thank you to the waiter and go home. He can sit in a car and go 100 miles and say nothing at all. When I first met him he made an effort at least to try. Since moving in my home that stopped and he just did not bother to acknowlege me.As a very good communucator myself I have tried everything humanly possibly to get on with it as I loved him very much. I tried letters emails everything our relaionship suffered and got worse. I ask you is it fair to deny yourself speech and a good talk? I love to talk now I am totally cut off from life as I have many pyysical problems moved a lot and have no freinds myself where I live now. Long story my life don’t need to know now. My grown up children when they visit I talk that much I develop ulcers in my mouth they live abroad.They are hurt that their mom a bubbly talkative person as to live with a miserable man who ignores me totally. If you can’t talk you can express yourself through words these days with email or letters.Sadly he ignores everything and has become a really depressing miserable git. I do not want to be so supressed with him. I tried but he needs help. Not just with his shut off life but his inability to see that it has destroyed our relainship now.

  • Brian Bennett says:

    my friend who is a girl does not like to be on the phone and the communicate is hard for me. about any other ideas of activities so how do I get her to communicate with me on the phone.

  • Aldo says:

    Nat, I regret to hear that you are so turned off on sex. God instituted it because He knew that it was not good for man to be alone. From what you wrote, that is exactly your case, living in an outbuilding by yourself.

    Man was made to socialize with one another. When one withdraws from that purpose, he thwarts the intent of God. In doing so, we may ultimately find that we are “flying in the face of God.”

    It would be much wiser to agree with what God wants, than to resist or frustrate His will. The end result is a matter of everlasting life or death.

  • Nat says:

    I’m 70 years old and had sex once in about 46 years. Sex is a boring waste of time, plus it stinks, messy and I got nothing out of it. As far as communication goes there isn’t any of that either. I let her live in the house and I built an out building that has a small apartment for myself.

  • Alfred says:

    Toni, you say you are a “words of affirmation person”; and now I’m wondering what his “love language” is. I suppose you have tried asking your husband simple questions that require a yes or no response. That could be followed by some “open-ended questions” that require more than a yes / no response? No doubt you are far ahead of me on that, but it’s a thought that just came to me.
    What more can I add? This article explains the various situations well, and gives advice on how to improve our communication. Mother Teresa is to have said: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Blessings to each one, as we all work at growing to understand and to be understood. May our lives be the richer for it, all while serving others. Cheers.

  • Johnwhite says:

    This post is very much helpful to me,thanks to you all.

  • Johnwhite says:

    Kathryn,i dont think the devil has something to do with this.Although he want people to belive that he can do more than he is capble.The post had already stated that our enviroment,lifestyle,education and lots more of other factors contributes affects our communicating skills,and the bible sum it up this way,”time and unforeseen occurence”affects them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Hi Toni, Thanks for your comment. I agree that communication, even between loved ones and close family can at times be very difficult. I have experienced it in my own family and how it can lead to real conflict. As a mature Christian I honestly feel that somehow this is a work of satan to try to weaken and even destroy Godly relationships. However, the good news is that you have already discovered that there are ways of learning about God’s way of communication and want to learn more. That’s great! If you look at the top right hand side of the page, you will see there is a button there that invites you to have a personal mentor. If you click on that and restate your concern, the coordinating team will assign you a mentor who will be able to guide you into a learning process of good communication for both you and your husband. How does that sound Toni? Lord, we pray that Toni and her husband may both be led and guided by your Holy Spirit to a place of joy in each other and in You. Amen

  • Toni says:

    Hello, I have been married for 11 years to a wonderful man whom i love dearly. The only problem.is that he struggles tdmendously with communication. I recent found a video from.focus on the family that described our problem very well. It was the 6 levels of communication. My husband and i have only gotten to levels one and two. I honestly dont think we have ever touched on the last four. I am a words of affirmation perspn myself so you can imagine how difficult the last 11 years have been for me. After i learned that my husband really does lovd me and that his silence is purely an innability to communicatd i have become determined to make our marriage work. I have tried so many things that im losing hope. I would love to find some sort of counselor who specializes in the 6 levels of communication. I need help and prayer.

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Jackie, I am sorry to hear about the awful abuse you suffered all those years ago, It is not surprising that it is still taking time to get over it but from what you have written, it sounds as if you are on a winner. You and your best friend of 14 years have discovered a deeper relationship. He must know something of what you have been through and probably has been longing to get closer to you for a while and now he has his chance and it seems to me he will be patient and encouraging with you until you feel fully at ease with him and he with you and because of the depth of your suffering and his response, there will be a deep bond which will hold you together, and with time you will be able to communicate fully; something which many couples never seem to reach or understand. I am pretty sure that with his
    patient understanding and your longing to communicate fully, you will be able to build up a great relationship very soon and be able to decide where this is taking you and if it s what you both desire. God bless you both Jackie.

  • Jackie says:

    I have a big problem communicating. I was in an abusive 6 year relationship in the beginning communication came easy as time went I began to shut down and lose myself. I have been out of the relationship for about 2 years, and I am trying to start on a new one. He has been my best friend for 14 years it took us this long to give this a try. I haven’t been able to communicate properly with him. He has helped for me to find myself and be ok again with being alone. I just want to be able to overcome this mental block of get so tongue tied and unable to verbalize the things I want to say. I don’t want to hide what I am feeling but my actions or lack there of which is communicating my feel has been a challenge that I don’t see to be able to overcome. My questions what step can I take to improve on my communication.

  • Aldo says:

    Anna, I believe both Chris and Dream gave you some good advice. Chris suggested that you go to knowingjesuspersonally.com, and talk to a mentor who will be able to minister to you on a one to one basis, and pray for you.

    Dream suggests that you pray and ask God whether He wants you to remain in a relationship with a person who continually verbally abuses you, and who cannot communicate with you.

    I believe God has someone better for you, but you need to trust Him to bring that someone about. Let’s pray:

    Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love for Anna. A love so great it is unfathomable. Help her to grasp the magnitude of that love. Help her to comprehend the sacrifice You made for her in sending Your Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die for her sins, and the sins of all mankind. Lord, touch Anna in a special way with Your Holy Spirit, and bring her to the place of having a relationship with You through accepting and receiving Your Son Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Lord, help her in the situation which she is in, and grant her the wisdom to make the right decision about it, in Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

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