One of the most common conflicts I see in couples is miscommunication. In my personal and professional life I see and hear examples daily of couples and families struggling to really be heard by one another. It seems like such a simple thing, just be quiet and listen, maybe repeat back what was said and then magically everyone will feel as though they’ve been heard and communication will become effortless… right? Well not really. Even with the best communication skills in place, many of us struggle with the less tangible but more important issue of emotional validation.
When we talk with one another we are not only looking for the other person to listen and respond verbally but more often than not we are looking for them to be influenced by our words and feelings. We want the people closest to us to let us know that what we say has value and impact on their interactions with us. John Gottman,one of the leading marriage researchers in the U.S., refers to this as “willingness to accept influence and found that while important for both partners it was particularly important for husbands. In fact husband’s who were unwilling to be influenced by their wives and effectively share power were significantly more likely to find themselves in unhappy marriages and even divorced.
This doesn’t mean that as couples (or parents) we must bend with the whims of our partner (or children). What it does mean is that when we enter into a conversation, we should do so with an open mind and willingness to allow our initial opinion or decision to be influenced by the opinions and feelings of those closest to us. Interestingly enough I came across an excellent quote from Alan Alda that sums up what we should all learn about effective communication:
“Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you. When I’m willing to let them change me, something happens between us that is more interesting than a pair of dueling monologues.”
It can be hard to let go of our “monologue” in favor of meaningful dialogue but the end result in your relationships can be amazing. So go out today with an open-mind and see what amazing things happen we you are ready to be changed by the words of another.