I would like to first congratulate you on your decision to become engaged. It is my hope that you have a lasting relationship and thank you for coming to me for communication advice. As you probably already know, communication is the key to any relationship and if you do not communicate with each other effectively, then your relationship is doomed. Hopefully, you will take my advice sincerely and adjust it according to your needs. Communication is a two way street so it will take both of your cooperation to make it successful and therefore your relationship being a long successful one.
First, I would like to touch on privacy in your communication. With this I do not mean privacy with each other, I specifically mean when talking to others. There are many things that others do not want to hear about your relationship, as well as things that you should not share. One of these many things is arguments or little pet peeves. For example, say that Amy hates hair being in the sink and James has a horrible habit of leaving hair in the sink. Amy should not complain about it to her friends, she should talk to James about it so that you two can resolve the issue. If Amy were to go and complain to her friends then James might hear about it from them or their husbands. Taking this route would only make the situation worse.
You two will also need to make sure that you are able to understand what you each mean. Everybody has at least a slightly different way of communicating, so it is very important that when you do communicate that you understand one another. If you don’t make sure that it is clarified instead of it turning into an argument. Taking these couple of steps can help a long way in your relationship. Let us move onto some more communication issues.
Gender & Culture Differences
Since Amy is from a Chinese family, I would like to touch on culture differences. James you may have noticed some differences in the way that Amy’s family acts at home compared to the way that your family acts. This is completely normal, however, to understand Amy and her family and avoid confusion you need to learn the customs in her family. “Lack of knowledge of other cultures may be detrimental to the process of communication.” (Gore, 63, 2013) Learning the ways of her family may also allow you to be accepted more willingly into the family.
Nonverbal communication in different cultures may also be different. For example, the okay symbol here means money in Japan. (Gore, 60, 2013) So if you are given a funny look about the nonverbal communication that you use, take that as an opportunity to ask what it means to them. This way you can use the appropriate nonverbal communication with Amy and her family. Don’t worry James, Amy will need to learn your culture as well, so it is not a one way street on this.
Besides cultural differences in communication, you two will also face gender differences in communication. Amy may be less willing to go ahead and speak up about problems she may be having. This is because in her culture it is not widely accepted for women to speak out. She may have adapted to the American way already and speak as freely as any other American woman. Men have a tendency to not share their feelings in America unlike Chinese men. So always keep in mind the differences in gender and culture when communicating.
With a little work on both sides you two can learn these differences and come up with communication that works for you both. Do not get frustrated on learning the cultural differences between each other. You can both help each other out along the way and the differences will strengthen your relationship. Self-Concept
A very important aspect of how people interpret messages is their self-concept. This is so important because if Amy’s self-concept is low then she is going to interpret messages differently than if her self-concept is low. You can both work together on each other’s self-concept to raise it. If your shelter needs are not met then you are not going to have very high self-concept. You can work together on getting shelter by making money with a job or career. If self-concept is low because of a low self-image, then boost each other’s self-image by giving compliments or work out together. (Sole, 2011)
Once you have both accomplished raising your self-concept as high as possible, then it will be easier to communicate simply because messages are not being received as being entirely directed at the person. When you can focus on the message as a whole and not directed at one person, then communication just gets easier. Also, another benefit to high self-concept is being able to look at needs as a couple and being able to work together on those needs. (Sole, 2011)
Another thing to look at here as individuals is how the messages are being sent. If you are being very defensive in the way that you are sending your messages, how is the other person going to react to the message. It may deteriorate their self-concept. To fix this you can send supportive messages so that you show that you care, but this is something that needs to be fixed. Making sure that the other person understands that you care is the key to keeping communication successful and not damage the relationship. Make sure that you let each other know if the message being sent is coming across as defensive. Doing this will make sure that you can each correct your bad communication behaviors. Self-Disclosure
There are many things that you want to tell other people about yourself. The big question here is where is the line drawn in different types of relationships? You would not want to tell a perfect stranger about how much money you make or your sex life. What would happen if you shared the intimate details of your sex life to your boss or a coworker? You would probably get fired and have a difficult time getting a job in the same field. When it comes to relationships and disclosure, you do need to make sure that you are not sharing too much information.
When it comes to an intimate relationship it can be difficult to tell how much information is too much information. This is because when you share so much information with someone you have a tendency to forget what is important to leave out or tell. No one person can tell you what is right for self-disclosure in your relationship because this is entirely dependent on you James and Amy. Only you two can decide what needs to be shared and what you do not want to tell each other.
There is a very important aspect of self-disclosure in your relationship. This aspect is to make sure that you do not grow apart. While communication is important, it is also important to make sure that as your life plans change or your tastes change that you tell each other. If you do not take this crucial step than you will no longer know each other. (Schoenberg, 2011) It would be like being married to a perfect stranger, which nobody in their right mind would ever do. So make sure that you both take the time at least every other day, throughout your relationship, to have a meaningful conversation about what you each want and like.
Many people do not realize how important body language is in communication. I do not want to see you two make this mistake in your relationship because it can cause major issues. “Researchers have found that the accuracy of nonverbal communication decreases in couples when the satisfaction of the relationship decreases.” (Prinsen, 2010) So, if you ever find that the accuracy of your nonverbal communication decreases, take the time to talk to each other to discover if there is a bigger problem at hand in your relationship.
Besides losing your relationship and having nonverbal cues let you know that something is wrong, there are other reasons to pay attention to your nonverbal communication. To start off with, let us talk about feelings. By this I mean the fact that you can tell how Amy is feeling about what she is saying by the way her body is moving or the look on her face. At the same time you can see how James is feeling about what Amy is saying. Always pay attention to the body language during your communication, so that you can judge a little better on what the message means. This can also help you in responding emotionally to each other.
Another great thing about nonverbal communication is that if you do not have the words to describe something you can use your body. If James is visual and Amy is not, she can use her body in order to describe something to James. For example, say that you guys are looking into purchasing a bed, however, you are having difficulties coordinating a time to look together. If James does not understand what type of bed Amy wants, she can use her hands to describe the look of the headboard and footboard, or use her height to show how high she wants the bed. Body language can be used in all sorts of ways for you to describe different objects to one another.
The last thing I want to talk about in nonverbal communication is mood. Mood can be shown in the way that a person carries themselves that day. If James were to have a really bad day at work he may come home with a frown on his face and not really talk much. This would mean that Amy would have to judge the way he is walking, the movements he makes, and any other things he is doing with his body to decide whether or not to go near him. James may not mean to be portraying all this information and actually want comforting from Amy. So James would need to talk to Amy or change his body language to let her know that it is alright to come near him.
“Listening is generally defined as a conscious, cognitive effort involving primarily the sense of hearing and leading to interpretation and understanding.” (Sayeekumar, 2013) This is the most important skill for people to learn in communication. This is because without this particular skill, you cannot have two way communication at all. If you do not know how to listen effectively then you are just letting it go in one ear and out the other. For example, if James has bad listening skills, when Amy talks he is hearing the Charlie Brown teacher. So when it is his turn to speak during the conversation he has no idea how to respond.
There are many different types of listening and they are all equally important. If you are proficient in one type of listening then take the time to learn how to be proficient at another type so that you can be prepared for all types of listening necessary in life. The different types of listening are informative, relationship, appreciative, critical, discriminative, and empathetic. I’ll go over each of these types with you so that you will both understand how they work and why you need them.
The first type of listening I want to talk about is informative. This is the most basic type of listening and the one you will probably use the most in everyday conversations. It works by you just listening to understand what is being said to you. It is always a good idea to repeat what you understood of the message back to the person who was telling it to you. Doing this simple step will help you insure that you understood the message correctly.
Relationship listening is what the two of you will most likely use often when communicating with one another. You can use it with other people in different types of relationships that you have. This is where you really build trust and understanding between one another. A great tool this can be when you use it to help out one another or a friend.
When it comes to listening to music or watching a movie you are using appreciative listening. It can also be you listening to someone else talk simply because you like the style. Style is what appreciative listening is all about and if you don’t appreciate listening to something then you are going to tune it out. This type of listening skill may come into play when you two talk just because you love the sound of each other’s voices.
James and Amy when you work you have to use a very important listening skill on the job. This skill is critical listening and when you do not use it is when you end up doing the job wrong. If you can master this listening skill, then you can really pay attention to detail on each other to make sure that you get things exactly the way the other person likes. This can be especially helpful when it comes to things like cleaning. Amy may have a specific way that she likes a task done in the house, if you can understand exactly how she likes it by her description, James, then you are golden in the relationship.
A person who can use discriminative listening will be able to pick out when someone is annoyed in a conversation. They can pick out the tiniest hint of difference in a person’s movement or tone. It would be very helpful in a disagreement so that you know where to go next in the conversation. Make sure that you work on this very important listening skill to strengthen your relationship.
Empathetic listening will allow you to show true strength in character. This is because you are pulling on your own experiences to bring up the feeling that more than likely rhe other person is feeling at that moment. If Amy’s father were to pass away and James’ father passed away a couple years beforehand, then James could pull up his feelings and use those to help Amy. This can seriously strengthen a relationship and show that you can help the other person out through anything.
We have talked about the many aspects of communication here to help out your relationship. Communication is a two way street so it will take both of your cooperation to make it successful and therefore your relationship being a long successful one. Gender and culture will always play a role in your relationship so be sure to learn key differences. Self-concept and self-disclosure are a big part in how people interpret messages and you must watch how people feel. Listening is the most important skill you can learn in a relationship to make it last. Most of all make sure that you both communicate frequently and help each other where you are each weak.
Gore, V. (2013). The Importance of Cross-Cultural Communication. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 7(1), 59-65. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST Prinsen, T., & Punyanunt-Carter, N. M. (2010). The Difference in Nonverbal Behaviors and How It Changes Different Stages of A Relationship. Texas Speech Communication Journal, 35 (1), 1-7. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST Sayeekumar, M.
(2013). Develop Effective Listening Skill. Language in India, 13(5), 704-707. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST Schoenberg, N. (2011, January 17). Can we talk? Researcher talks about the role of communication in happy marraiages. McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Doi: 2240370261 Sole, K. (2011).Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.