Congratulations on your engagement. It marks a huge milestone in life and on this happy occasion, I wish to enlighten you about effective interpersonal communication via information I learned in a course I took as well as my personal experiences. Familiarity with a partner’s communication approach and application of both non-verbal and verbal communication has extreme significance in relationships. It will contribute a great deal in decreasing instances of miscommunication. A key point to note is: conflict is inevitable in all human relationships and no marriage is without conflict; however, successful relationships arise out of effective conflict resolution or management. I am aware of the deep affection you both hold for one another, which will undoubtedly aid you in weathering any storms in your relationship. I intend for this letter to guide you on obstacles to effective communication, ways to surmount them, use of communication for self-improvement and improvement of your significant other, interpersonal conflict resolution via communication, and influence of cultures and genders on communication.
Principles of and Barriers to Effective Interpersonal Communications
Communication represents an inescapable aspect of human life. One can’t just “not communicate” — this phrase has been typically employed for illustrating the fact of constant inevitable human communication. Even when you aren’t verbally expressing your views, feelings, etc., your body language, clothes, and facial expressions are visible to you partner, who will derive meanings from them (Braithwaite & Schrodt, 2014). Further, communication is an irreversible process, which means you cannot retract any offensive or hurtful words you said at a later time. All you can do is feel remorse and say sorry, but this can leave a slightly bitter permanent mark. Communication is a complex process. Dr. Julia Wood’s (2015) definition of communication is: communication denotes a systemic phenomenon of personal interaction using symbols for creating and interpreting meanings. Finally, communication is a contextual process, occurring within contextual frameworks, including psychological, cultural, relational, and situational contexts.
There are three commonly identified obstacles to spousal communication: First, residual negative emotions from past relationships which, if bottled up, will haunt a person and surface when one least anticipates them to. These are activated by similar circumstances in life, which crop up unconsciously. So long as one fails to recognize and give vent to them, they can adversely impact your communication with your partner as he/she will be unaware of the real source of your overreaction (Stewart, 2002). For getting over negative emotions, you must be honest with your betrothed, sharing all emotions and problems you experience. After all, it has been rightly said that sharing a problem half solves it.
Secondly, poor self-esteem has enormous ill-effects on a person’s interpersonal communication. Be bold enough to convey your thoughts (they are definitely worthy) as the inability to do so sends the wrong, misleading message to your partner, and he/she will end up believing whatever they wish (which may differ from what your message intended) (Stewart, 2002). For surmounting poor self-esteem, believe the fact that you both are equally important partners in your engagement; both are necessary for this engagement to hold. Further, take accountability of your actions and communication, and wherever necessary, communicate with your betrothed.
Finally, relationships lacking commitment suffer communication obstacles. Non-commitment generally arises from not knowing one’s expectations or lacking the pluck to do the right things. Non-commitment contributes significantly to interpersonal communication, as it can be easily detected and we all dislike it. Effective communication with an indifferent partner begins basically by drawing his/her attention to it (Stewart, 2002). Let your partner know that you wish for their attention, or that they must change their indifferent attitude when communicating as it bothers you.
The Role of Communication in Developing and Maintaining One’s Self-Concept, Self-Image, and Self-Esteem
Just like all other skills, building one’s self-image requires the devotion of effort and time. Development of superior self-esteem entails harboring positive, reasonable thoughts of oneself and the surrounding world, recognizing one’s value and portraying responsible behavior towards other people. Self-esteem deals with self-respect rather than self-absorption. It develops by working inside out (change your outlook prior to altering external circumstances). Such positive thinking should aim at developing a positive self-concept: You need to have an honest view of yourself and accept yourself, eliminating every internal obstacle preventing you from being at your best. The present world is highly complicated and complex and to effectively tackle the challenges currently encountered, developing a sound personal foundation is imperative (Knapp & Hall, 2010). This foundation must encompass self-knowledge, self-confidence and self-love. A healthy or positive self-concept necessitates: knowing yourself, loving yourself, and being honest with yourself. Sound communication aids in developing self-image, self-esteem, and self-concept, because of the ensuing feedback; moreover, sustained positive feedback aids in maintaining these aspects. Self-concept is maintained by one’s interpersonal relationships. Remember that both your partner’s and your self-concept has undergone continual transformation over time and shaped your current selves. Your many relationships (with family, friends, etc.) aid you in defining yourself.
Levels of Self-Disclosure and Emotional Intelligence in Various Relationships
Self-disclosure forms an integral tool to establish rapport in relationships. Different relationships entail one’s communication of different facts regarding self. At first, you may hesitate to let your partner know of all your intimate secrets. Effective communication skills encompass knowing proper self-disclosure levels. The social penetration theory put forward in the year 1973 likened disclosure to peeling layers of an onion (Bevan & Sole, 2014). With the strengthening of your relationship, you will automatically start opening up and letting your partner know more about yourself. Bear in mind that open communication forms the answer to a successful marriage. This entails sharing all things with one another and leaving no secret untold.
After understanding and knowing yourself, you can effectively demonstrate emotional intelligence. The ability to pay active, sympathetic attention to others has been associated positively with the presence of sound levels of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence encompasses monitoring, regulating, and discriminating among your betrothed’s and your feelings for driving your behavior and attitudes (Bevan & Sole, 2014). Emotional intelligence proves highly salient to a marriage as you need to appreciate and consider your partner’s emotions and thoughts. Emotional understanding denotes knowing the sources of personal and others’ emotional experiences. Emotion management deals with appropriate regulation of personal and others’ emotions. Harnessing emotions entails problem resolution and attainment of other goals through the use of emotions (Malouff, Schutte & Thorsteinsson, 2014).
Emotional intelligence also covers knowing when you need to be together and apart. It is imperative that you give one another personal space. While the desire to spend much of your time with each other is good, you must occasionally spend time (a few hours or a day or two) away from each other. Marriage or an engagement doesn’t require you to remain by each other’s side round the clock. Personal space is a must. You can love your partner and still live your own life (Bevan, Hefner & Love, 2014). This can involve doing leisure activities you love best with friends: for instance, women can go shopping with pals while men can go to a basketball match. The trick here is to find the right balance between completing your everyday jobs and duties, finding “alone” time and spending time with your partner.
Strategies for Using Communication Techniques to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts
Brace yourselves for conflicts and problems, think about what step you will take: whether you will develop and apply conflict settlement skills or let such trivial issues ruin your relationship. All relationships see their fair share of issues and conflict. Conflict management is what differentiates a successful relationship from a failed one (Bevan et al., 2014). For instance, your partner may forget a lunch date or an important occasion. When such issues crop up, discuss them rather than venting your frustration by fighting, throwing things around, banging doors, etc. Seek the reason for his/her lapse of memory (perhaps a crucial meeting or work stress caused this slipup). Talking is the ideal means to settle disagreements. Discuss your expectations, likes and dislikes. In the event of conflicts, strive for a settlement of the problem. Communicate your thoughts and feelings to your partner, the rationale behind them, and how you wish to settle a given problem. Do not act under the wrong assumption that your betrothed is aware of your feelings. Open communication forms the first step to effective problem resolution.
Compromise, defined as settling problems through relinquishing a few demands or making concessions, on both conflicting parties’ parts, represents another ideal conflict resolution strategy (Rosenblatt & Rieks, 2009). It is a win-win situation. Women, for instance, may prefer pinks and purples whilst males may prefer black or other dark tones. In deciding colors for your home, you can reach a compromise by incorporating the choices of both equally and in a visually appealing manner. Several other major and minor issues will require compromise in your relationship. Your self-interests might not be in line with those of your partner. You can compromise by making concessions to the detriment of your immediate self-interests and favor your partner’s interest. However, your partner should also understand that he/she needs to make similar concessions if the occasion arises (Rosenblatt & Rieks, 2009).
Impact of Gender and Culture on Interpersonal Communications
Culture has a central role to play in conflict resolution. It influences people’s self-concepts, ideas of others, views, decisions and attributions. Although strong, cultures are usually unconscious, influence conflict and try to resolve them imperceptibly. People belonging to a particular culture share more than just their language, food and dress; they even share their nationality or race and stem from generational, socioeconomic class, ability/disability, sexual orientation, religious, dialect, gender and political divisions (Wood, 2011). The two main aspects to note with regard to culture are: cultures change perpetually, and they are related to symbolic aspects in places where people make continuous meaning and enact their identities. Cultural groups inform members of what’s of significance or value and members’ identity relating to people from other cultures.
Culture and gender inform people’s choice of vocabulary, facial expressions, and body language in communication. Men characteristically speak less than females and prefer to get what they want by means of non-verbal communication. Women, on the other hand, typically make connections using words (Wood, 2011). Further, culture influences how you talk, individuals’ views of members belonging to the opposite sex, and how you will interact with members belonging to the opposite sex. Grasping culture- and gender- based communication differences between your partner and yourself will help understand their nonverbal cues and language/vocabulary choice.
This letter, addressing a newly engaged couple, deals with obstacles to effective communication, ways to surmount them, use of communication for self-improvement and improvement of your significant other, interpersonal conflict resolution via communication, and influence of cultures and genders on communication. Communication is complex, inevitable, contextual and irreversible. The three common obstacles to spousal communication are; negative emotions, non-commitment and poor self-esteem. Sound communication aids in developing self-image, self-esteem, and self-concept, because of the ensuing feedback; moreover, sustained positive feedback aids in maintaining these aspects. Self-concept is maintained by one’s interpersonal relationships. Effective communication skills encompass knowing proper self-disclosure levels. Bear in mind that open communication forms the answer to a successful marriage. Emotional intelligence also covers knowing when you need to be together and apart. Talking is the ideal means to settle disagreements. Discuss your expectations, likes and dislikes. Compromise represents another ideal conflict resolution strategy. Culture influences people’s self-concepts, ideas of others, views, decisions and attributions. Culture and gender inform people’s choice of vocabulary, facial expressions, and body language in communication.
Bevan, J. L., & Sole, K. (2014). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Bevan, J. L., Hefner, V., & Love, A. (2014). An exploration of topics, conflict styles, and rumination in romantic nonserial and serial arguments. Southern Communication Journal, 79(4), 347-360.
Braithwaite, D. O., & Schrodt, P. (Eds.). (2014). Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple perspectives. Sage Publications.
Knapp, M. L & Hall, J. A. (2010). Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction (7th Edition). Wadsworth.
Malouff, J. M., Schutte, N. S. & Thorsteinsson, E. B. (2014). Trait Emotional Intelligence and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: A Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Family Therapy, 42(1), 53-66.
Rosenblatt, P. C. & Rieks, S. J. (2009). No Compromise: Couples Dealing with Issues for Which They Do Not See a Compromise. American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(3), 196-208.
Stewart. J. (ed.) (2002). Bridges not walls: A book About interpersonal communication. New York: Mcgraw Hill.
Wood, J. (2011). Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. Wadsworth.
Wood, J. T. (2015). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters. Nelson Education.
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