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Communication: the key to better relationships.

2nd Place Winner AMT 2007 Feature Writing Contest

In this technological advanced age and access to some of the most sophisticated instrumentation, we still are faced with the age old problem of a lack of communication. If you want to gain leverage over your opponent, just cause a breakdown in the communication process. I gave a survey asking participants to list seven attributes they felt were imperative to building a strong Christian family. The results of this survey showed that 70 percent of the participants stated that communication was pivotal to the building process. One participant responded in this manner: "Communication with God, communication with spouse, communication with children, communication with church family, communication with extended family, communication with friends and neighbors, did I mention communication." What I gather from this person's response is that communication is of the utmost importance.

If there is one word to sum up all the troubles among nations, different groups, even married people, that one word must be "communication." Judging from the response to the survey, I gather that communication is integral to a successful relationship. Few of us have been trained in the simple but demanding skills of good communication. Most of us have learned to communicate by imitating our parents and other adults who were around during our early childhood. This is seldom adequate because so few adults are able to be good models. Our environment contributes significantly and has a direct bearing to how we communicate with one another.

There are two main parts to any communication process: the sender, the person usually talking, and the receiver, the person who listens. Most problems happen when either one or both of these people do not do their jobs well. The sad truth is that when most of us look like we are listening, we are busy formulating our response to the speaker. We hear just enough from the speaker, then we begin to construct what our reply will be. Many times listeners have a tendency to critique the speaker, thus, leading to missing the importance of what is being shared. Peter Drucker, the father of American Management, believes that 60 percent of all management problems are the result of faulty communication. I would say that the overwhelming majority of communication problems come from poor listening. Before a leader can touch a person's heart, he has to know what is in it. He learns that by listening. (Maxwell)

While learning how to be a good receiver or listener is very important, being a good sender or talker is equally important. There are some basic guidelines the sender should follow in order to be understood.

1. Keep your message short and simple. I think it is important to make sure you know what you want to say before you say it. The speaker must be sure and clear of what he or she is going to say.

2. Keep in touch with your feelings. Many times people are taught to ignore or mask their feelings. However, this tends to limit one's self-knowledge and inhibits the ability to share with others.

3. Be honest. If you are hurt, then you should be open to share the fact that your feelings are hurt. Your body gives off a language as well. When it says one thing and your speech says another, it will give the receiver a mixed message.

4. Do not expect other people to be able to read your mind. Often times when we hurt psychologically or spiritually, we think it shows. Most people are so involved in their own lives that they need someone to stop them and ask for help or just to listen.

Communication is not just what you say. It is also how you say it. Forget about impressing people with big words or complex sentences. If you want to connect with people, keep it simple. Napoleon Bonaparte used to tell his secretaries, "Be clear, be clear, and be clear." (Maxwell)

People communicate in a variety of ways. Words are one means by which a person can express him/herself; action language is another. Silence can convey a wealth of information! Listening is an indispensable condition for meaningful communication. (Peterson)

Let me offer four patterns of communication adapted from Covenant Marriage. As stated before, we learn a great deal by observing. I think looking at birds in this illustration will help clarify the patterns by which we communicate with one another.

* Dove: "I want peace at any price."--In this pattern, one partner placates the other in order to avoid his or her wrath. Typical statements are: "That's fine with me" or "Whatever makes you happy makes me happy." This partner always tries to please the other person, apologizing often, even for little things that may have stimulated the spouse's anger. The dove almost never disagrees with the spouse, no matter how he or she feels.

* Hawk: "It's your fault."--In this pattern one person blames the other for everything. The blamer is the boss, the dictator, and the one in charge who never does wrong. Typical statements are: "You never do anything right." "You always botch it up." "I don't understand how you could be so stupid." "If it weren't for you [or your words or your actions], everything would be fine."

* Owl: "Let's be reasonable."--Here is Mr. or Mrs. Calm, Cool, and Collected. This person shows no feelings. He/she says the right words; he/she reveals no emotional reaction when his/her spouse disagrees with him/her. He/she is more like a computer than a person. This person can give you logical answers to every question. They calmly explain anything you have a question about and make it sound so reasonable that you wonder how anyone could have ever thought otherwise. When the other person shows emotion, they calmly sit until the storm is over and then proceed with their reasoning.

* Ostrich: "Ignore it, and it will go away."--In this pattern, one person basically ignores the other person's actions and comments, especially if he or she finds these disagreeable. This person seldom responds directly to what the other person says. They do not respond negatively--they simply do not respond. They change the subject and move to something totally unrelated to what the other person just said. Their conversation goes in all directions and seldom reaches any conclusions.

Identifying these patterns is the first step in communication growth.

Even though one may exhibit one of the "feathered friends" patterns of communicating, there are still barriers to honest communication. Dr. Willie Richardson from Reclaiming the Urban Family explains seven key factors that are barriers to effective communication:

1. Wanting only to be complimented--There are people who refuse any correction from family members.

2. Exaggerating problems--Honest communicators should never use such terms as "You always ... " "I always....," "You never....," "I never...." Sometimes with intense emotions, we believe what we are saying, but we are guilty of unintentional lying.

3. Attacking when guilty--When corrected or confronted, instead of being open, honest, and facing faults, some people, when corrected or confronted, respond "You are guilty of the same thing or worse." They shift the blame and look for faults in the other person to cover their own wrongdoing.

4. Always having to be right--Very rarely will anyone claim they are perfect, but sometimes they communicate as if they are.

5. Deciding the other's motives--We are warned about judging others. Statements such as "You mean to hurt me," "You really don't care about me," "All you care about is yourself" are all judgmental. It is better to ask the reason for an action, or lack of action, or ask someone to repeat what he said or she said, than to judge someone's heart or mind

6. Pretending not to hear--There are many ways this dishonest tactic is used [hiding hurts behind a smile, not wanting someone to know you are hurt because of pride, saying there is nothing bothering you when this is not true].

7. Hinting--Even when there is seemingly direct communication, there can be misunderstanding. There are people who hint, insinuate, or imply without making clear what they are trying to com-municate.

These are a few barriers to honest communication. Did you see yourself in any of these scenarios? As I stated before, identifying these patterns is the first step in communication growth. If you can honestly say, "I see one of these patterns in my communication, but I really want to change that pattern," you have taken the first step toward better communication.

Your relationships at home, in the community or at work will be enhanced when you employ good communicative techniques. Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. You impact whatever you are a part of. Therefore, if you improve yourself, whatever you are a part of should improve as well. Let me share this final comment: "Perfection is what you're striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts."--John Wooden

Keep pressing in your quest to better your relationships through enhancing your pattern of communication.

References

Maxwell, John. The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.

Peterson, J. Allan. Two Become One, Wheaton, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 1976.

Richardson, Dr. Willie. Reclaiming the Urban Family. Jackson, MS, Urban Family, Inc., 1996.

Paul C. Brown, D.Min, MT(AMT), CLT(HHS) Vice President, AMT Lab/X-Ray Director, Health Services, Inc., Montgomery, AL
COPYRIGHT 2007 American Medical Technologists
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Brown, Paul C.
Publication:AMT Events
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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