You've probably heard a million times that communication is the key – the secret ingredient on which every great intimate connection stands or falls. It is also the first major building block of that elusive springboard to experience: trust. Even if it's easy to logically understand the irreplaceable role that good communication plays in supporting intimacy, that understanding doesn't automatically make us into great communicators. Like all good things, becoming a great communicator takes time, patience and above all: practice.
Communication is a life skill that we have all been developing for years in multiple social settings. The school playground, the workspace, in our sports teams, churches and clubs, and with our friends; there are many opportunities to build social communications skills, but – and it's a big 'but' – all of that's not necessarily also preparation for communication in the context a romantic or sexual relationship. Most of our preparation for that comes from observing and mimicking; primarily the romantic relationships in our environment as we are growing up - for most of us that means our parents - and the rest we gather from popular culture, watching our friends and acquaintances and (perhaps what you are looking for in this article?) advice from would-be 'experts'.
Communication in relationships can take many, many different forms. All physicality can communicate our feelings to others – the way a hand glides over a back, or smooths over an eyebrow, or grabs at a hip can communicate feelings that could perhaps never be written down. Kind gestures and everyday actions also communicate the way we feel about others, our empathies and interest in them. When it comes to times of difficulty, uncertainty or discomfort, though, sometimes the only way forward is to just to have a good sit (or lie!) down together and talk it through.
What comes under the umbrella of 'good verbal communication' starts with your own ability to communication within yourself – to know yourself and your desires and wishes well, to translate those desires and wishes into language, and to then be able to convey that clearly to another person. Sometimes undertaking the first part of that process – simply taking the time with yourself to best put into words what you are thinking or experiencing – is the biggest part of the task. Perhaps, even after a lot of reflection, the only thing that you can put clearly into language is "I'm confused." If that's what you've got – that's what you've got! Tell your partner exactly that: "I'm feeling really unclear", "a lot of things are coming up but I'm overwhelmed – I feel like I need to work it out with you." Listen to yourself non-judgementally, get as close to your truth as you can manage and then - tell your partner your truth as best you can.
The other side of communication begins there – listening, interpreting and understanding. Like everything else in relationships, communication is a two-way street. Not all of us are as equally practiced in listening as we are in talking; also no great cause for concern, but paying just a little mindful attention to our receptiveness in communication can make a world of difference. In the back of your mind, try to keep tabs on the balance between sending and receiving. If your partner is doing all the talking, and you are overwhelmed with impressions and possible responses, then it's perfectly ok to ask them to slow down so you can both concentrate on one aspect at a time. If you notice you are dominating the conversation, remind yourself to stop and breathe – ask your partner what they are thinking, if they have questions. And when they do talk, to state the obvious – listen! Listen deeply, make it your sole intention to understand what your partner is saying. Follow up on ideas that are unclear. Imagine, if it helps, that you are going to have to tell a third person word for word what your partner is telling you – and for the time that you are listening, be simply in that moment. Hear the whole message without thinking ahead and planning your response. And, should you find yourselves afloat in a sea of thoughts that stretch out on all sides, remember: there's no rush. Focus on one aspect of a conversation and, before you get tired, call it a day... get out in the fresh air, get naked and make out, change the scenery! Good communication takes time and, if you approach communication with care, you'll both have plenty of that.
That's lustery's two cents on the subject, at least for now. At the end of the day, though, the world expert on how you communicate is, of course, YOU!
Write it, speak it, sing it... but most importantly: share it!
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