The foundation of a healthy relationship is effective communication. Through verbal and nonverbal communication we show others who we are and what is important to us. When we become close to others, in friendship or romance, communication can become complicated. Emotions can tangle communication and cloud our perception so that what we hear isn’t necessarily what was meant to be conveyed. Or emotion can make it difficult for a person to fully convey what they mean. In addition, peoples’ varying cultures and life experiences can lead to miscommunication.
One way to avoid miscommunication and really make sure you ‘get’ what someone is saying is through paraphrasing. First, let the other person express what they are thinking or feeling without interruption. Listen for the main points and the feelings involved. Then pause a moment, consider what they said, and paraphrase it back to them. Make sure you also reflect the feelings involved. “I want to make sure I really hear what you are saying. You are feeling angry and hurt, because when I didn’t answer your text you thought I was ignoring you. Is this right?” Ask if your perception is correct. Then pause and let the other person respond. By doing this you are showing you care enough to listen and try to understand their feelings and thoughts. The key thing here is to not add your own thoughts. Paraphrase what you believe they said and then they respond. They may verify your understanding, “Yes, I was so hurt by your silence!” or they may correct you. “No, I knew you were in a meeting. I was hurt you didn’t call me afterward.” Regardless of how the other person responds, you now know exactly what they are trying to communicate and you can choose how you want to respond. In the meanwhile, your friend or partner likely feels heard and understood and you have scored points by showing you care enough to want to know them and their experience. This exercise may seem a little involved, but it is amazing how it pinpoints small and large misunderstandings that can cause unnecessary pain. It also allows you to get to know the real person you are talking to, helping you form relationships which are richer and more rewarding to everyone involved. Effective communication – it does a body good!