Five Keys for Effectively Using Interpersonal Communication within a Relationship COM200: Interpersonal Communication December 12, 2011 Five Keys for Effectively Using Interpersonal Communication within a Relationship Dear Jim and Lisa, Congratulations on your recent engagement! I am honored that you would ask my advice for your relationship based on the information that I have been learning in my Interpersonal Communication course through Ashford University.

Because marriage comes with many challenges, it is so great that you are being proactive in seeking advice for effectively using interpersonal communication within your relationship. Although I am not an expert, I would like to share with you five key elements that I have been learning and attempting to implement in my own relationship. These keys involve understanding and developing strategies for emotional intelligence, effective listening, nonverbal expression, self-disclosure, and managing interpersonal conflicts.

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I believe these five keys will contribute greatly to the success of your life-long commitment of marriage. Define Emotional Intelligence and its Role in Effective Interpersonal Relationships One of the first keys to successful communication involves understanding emotions and expressing them appropriately through emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence can be defined as a person’s ability to portray emotional sensitivity and emotional management skills. It has been studied since 1985, when it first appeared as a term in Wayne Leon Payne’s doctoral dissertation.

However Daniel Goleman is the writer most commonly associated with the term, because he has done much published research regarding the topic in both articles and books. Emotional intelligence can be described as having three components: (1) the ability to effectively perceive, communicate, and manage negative emotions; (2) the ability to experience, communicate, and sustain positive emotions; and (3) the ability to retain perspective during difficult times and to recover following stressful events” (Sole, 2011 p. 205).

I believe that individuals are born with their own unique potential for understanding and processing emotional sensitivity. As you know, Sarah and I are both very different and have two very different ways of expressing our emotions and responding to each other’s emotional responses. She tends to have a more positive outlook during stressful situations, whereas I usually see the negative possibilities. I tend to handle issues of a more sensitive nature (i. e. hurt feelings, loss, fears, etc. ) in stride, whereas these types of emotions can really impact her and affect her day.

We know this about each other, and we try to be a balance to each other’s emotions. When I am stressed out, she tries to look for the positive opportunities and encourages me to stay calm. When she is struggling with her emotions, I try to reassure her that I will always be by her side…regardless of the issue. This tends to keep both of us on track during tough times. I encourage you two to do the same. Learn your emotional languages and how to speak to each other on that level. It is a challenging skill that we all must continually seek to improve.

In his book “Working with Emotional Intelligence,” Goleman (1998) suggests that EI consists of 25 “skills, abilities and competencies. ” Although 25 skills may seem a bit daunting, the point should be to always seek to improve your emotional intelligence skills. Understand that you each are different and respond with a different emotional response. There is no need to critique the other, but rather instead understand. This will help you both to effectively communicate with each other and be in tune with what is important to one another.

Develop Strategies for Active, Critical, and Empathic Listening As you begin to understand emotional intelligence and continue to concentrate on improving your skills, the next step is to develop strategies for active, critical and empathic listening. Listening is crucial to effective communication and developing your relationship. If one of you does not feel heard, than resentment and frustration can enter the relationship and tear down the protective walls of effective communication. It can become easy to excuse poor listening due to being tired, stressed, or overwhelmed by everyday life.

However, “by practicing good listening habits, you will find that you understand and retain much more of what you hear and improve your overall communication skills” (Sole, 2011 p. 158). The two of you may want to consider sitting down and discussing what signs convey that you are being heard. Some people feel they are being heard when the other person responds by paraphrasing what has been said. Others feel they are being heard when the other is silent and still. Although it may seem sterile and more common in the workplace, it may even be helpful to write down notes as the other is talking.

Each of you has your own listening style and ways of retaining information. Whatever way you decide, it is important to develop a strategy for active listening that communicates, “I am listening. ” Another important element of listening is how you portray your emotions while listening. There is a big difference between hearing what someone is saying and truly listening. Sometimes you will need to attempt to not only hear, but also feel what each other are communicating. Empathetic listening is how you can convey this skill; you will need to attempt to put yourselves in each other’s shoes.

As you know, Sarah and I have very different jobs. She works as a Personal Assistant in a married couple’s home, and I work for the US Navy. When we come home to each other to talk about our day, neither one of us experience the same things. We both have to empathetically listen in order to understand each other’s frustrations or excitements during the day. Lisa and Jim, I encourage you both to do the same. Although Jim’s shoes may be a size bigger and Lisa’s may be a size smaller, you both will be better off attempting to understand each other in this way.

Understand How Perceptions, Emotions, and Nonverbal Expression Affect Interpersonal Relationships This next one is a tricky one… nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication affects both the sender (communicator) and the receiver (listener). “When you listen to each other, you will find that your attention is usually focused on the words being said, rather than on characteristics of their voice or their body language. However, you process the nonverbal messages people send at the same time you process the verbal messages, and you make judgments about others based on both” (Sole, 2011 p. 8). Sometimes what you are intending to communicate can be completely misconstrued based on your nonverbal communication. In order to avoid these types of miscommunications, you will want to consider several things. The tone, pitch, tempo, rhythm, and intensity of your speech play a large role in this aspect of communication. Sarah and I have had this misunderstanding, because I generally speak with intensity. Sometimes, she interprets that as me being upset when in actuality I am not upset at all. Another element to consider is your nonverbal vocalizations.

Can you believe that when you are silent or have a pause in between communication that also can be interpreted falsely? Sometimes, you need a minute to digest information when communicating. However when you pause or are silent, it can be misconstrued as you not agreeing or being upset. Sarah and I try to communicate that we need a minute to think about the topic or process the information, so that the other knows why we are pausing or silent. Other nonverbal vocalizations are sighing, yawning, laughing, crying, etc. I am sure you get the point.

Body posture and facial expressions are probably the most important thing to keep in mind when considering what you may be communicating nonverbally. Early on in my relationship with Sarah, I notice that she would often stand with her hands on her hips or arms crossed. Sometimes when we were communicating, it would feel like she was scolding me. She explained this is just part of her natural body posture, which has helped me understand her communication style better. Jim and Lisa, you two may have to do the same thing. You both may have habits that you do not necessarily mean to be interpreted negatively by the other.

In the article, “Nonverbal Communication: Do You Really Say What You Mean,” Paul Preston suggests that you “watch others' reactions toward you. The simplest way to learn about your own body language is to observe others' reaction toward and around you. ” This may be another great opportunity to take out the note pad and jot down a little about each other’s nonverbal communication skills to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. Understanding how nonverbal communication can affect your communication with others will help you greatly in your relationship with each other, as well as in general.

Evaluate Appropriate Levels of Self-Disclosure in Relationships You may be thinking that you both have great communication and plenty of it, but does your communication involve appropriate levels of self-disclosure? I recently read an article written by Mara Schoenberg in the Houston Chronicle titled “Can We Talk? Researcher Talks About the Role of Communication in Marriages. ” In this article Schoenberg points out the need for not just communication, but quality communication.

The article suggests that quality communication consists of sharing one’s private feelings, fears, doubts and perceptions with their partner, or in other words “self-disclosure. ” Although self-disclosure may seem difficult at first, studies show that self-disclosure can be tied to a higher rate of longer lasting marriages – less likely to divorce, along with marital satisfaction and higher marital quality. After reading this article, I spent some time reviewing my past relationships as well as my relationship now with Sarah. Although I believe communicate well together, I do not have a great deal of experience with self-disclosure.

I am a very private person and prefer not to disclose too much information about myself. I am fairly open about my dreams and goals, however I tend to withhold information about my fears, doubts or deep personal feelings. Sarah often times wants to dig and talk about our deep, personal feelings. I know her intentions are to grow closer, however I would rather be doing anything than talk about my feelings. I would venture to guess that Jim and I fall in line with gender generalizations, as most men tend to avoid talking about deep, personal feelings.

However, both genders have a desire to be heard and understood when communicating in a relationship. After studying this article, it has prompted me make changes in my communication efforts with Sarah. We would like to get married one day and have a strong, lasting relationship. “Terri Orbuch, a research scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, suggests that couples who have conversations consisting of topics related to self-disclosure just ten minutes a day are much happier and less likely to divorce” (Schoenberg, 2011).

Ten minutes a day does not seem to be that much of a sacrifice when you consider the great benefit. I think the two of you would agree that the sacrifice is small compared to the gain. Describe Strategies for Managing Interpersonal Conflicts Finally, once you have addressed all that goes into your communication efforts, it is important to develop strategies for managing interpersonal conflicts. As much as we want to avoid them, they are inevitable. “The process of building a relationship with someone is not always smooth and trouble-free. Communication problems can arise that disrupt the relationship or even cause its termination.

Three common communication problems in relationships stem from the following behaviors of one or both parties: (1) silence or refusing to communicate; (2) placating, which means to soothe or calm someone by being nice or by giving in to demands; and (3) playing games. These behaviors can sabotage a relationship and stand in the way of honest, open communication” (Sole, 2011 p. 198). There is good news though. By being aware of these problems, you can both make a commitment to each other to being direct and honest at all times. Claiming that everything is fine does not do anyone any good.

Sarah and I have found the best way to avoid these issues is to address any and all issues at the time they arise. No matter how small or how big, we try to tackle them head on. We also make every attempt to assume the best of each other. Ultimately, we want the best for each other…as do both of you. Look for opportunities to encourage each other and congratulate each other’s accomplishments. Do not act out alone. Ask for the other’s opinions and involve them in your decision making process. Remember your empathetic listening skills and try to understand the other’s perspective. Try to remember, conflict can be construct.

It can strengthen your relationship if you handle it properly. Some helpful suggestions I discovered when studying this topic are “Be Prepared. Plan how you will communicate about conflict in order to create a supportive climate. Be Involved. Do not withdraw from the conflict or avoid conflict situations. Withhold Quick Retorts. Be careful about what you say and how you say it. Review. Summarize what you have discussed and make plans to continue the discussion if time permits immediate resolution” (Allyn & Bacon, 1999). I am excited for both of you as you take this next step in your relationship.

Remember, you both will continue to grow and change as the years go by. You may need to go over these tips in time and readjust. To avoid the many pitfalls that come with marriage, I encourage you to safeguard your marriage with these five keys for effectively using interpersonal communication within your relationship. All the best to you both! Sincerely, Justin References 1. Allyn & Bacon. (1999). Interpersonal Communication. Interpersonal Conflict http://www. abacon. com/commstudies/interpersonal/inconflict. html 2. Goleman, Daniel. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Dell.

New York, New York 3. Preston, P. (2005). Nonverbal communication: Do you really say what you mean? Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(2), 83-6. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global. Document ID: 814698921 http://www. allbusiness. com/management/3604884-1. html#ixzz1gSiiBVuX 4. Schoenberg, Nara. (2011). Can We Talk? Researcher Talks About the Role of Communication in Marriages. HoustonChronicle. com. Retrieved from ProQuest Newsstand. Document ID: 2260839481 5. Sole, Kathy. (2011). Making Connections: Understanding Interpersonal Communication. Bridgepoint Education, Inc. San Diego, CA