by Fr. Rich Hasselbach
One of the most important skills a married couple can possess is the ability to communicate effectively. The word communicate comes from the Latin communicare, meaning, "to make one." Communication is NOT just speaking the process of making our thoughts and feelings clear! It is doing so in a way that brings another into our inner world gently. It is finding the deeper connection beneath all our divisions. It is discovering that where we are most ourselves, we are not ONLY ourselves.
Words are not necessarily communication - words spoken in anger, for example, drive people apart, and so are antithetical to communication. When we fail to listen as well as speak, we again fail to communicate. The process of communication is involves not only our own thoughts and feelings, it also requires sensitivity to the other. Wisdom, as Solomon knew, did not involve having the right answers - to be wise is to have a listening heart.
And so, a few guidelines for effective communication - for married couples, and anyone else who wants to genuinely communicate:
1. Listen with trust - Have faith in the other, and in your own inner wisdom. Trust that each of you has the answers to your questions and problems within
2. Listen with love - Listen to the other from within his or her experience; listen to what he or she is saying and, more important, feeling. Then affirm with or without words that you are listening and trying to understand.
3. Listen with patience - Communication is not all about words, sometimes it's about silence. Try to become comfortable with the still points in a conversation; those intervals of silence that sometimes occur in important conversations. Don't interrupt or rush to share your own experience until you have fully heard the other's experience.
4. Speak from "I" - When you respond, do so from your own experience, feelings, and opinions. Don't intellectualize and criticize what the other says, respond from your own point of reference and experience.
5. Accentuate the positive - Try to find common ground, and affirm the other as much as possible.
Remember, the truth is not an absolute value - love is. The truth without love can be devastating, The great virtue of communication is learning to speak the truth with love.