Water flows easily in a river when there are few or no rocks, sticks or other debris. I visualize communication in relationships to be like a small river or stream. When you say something complimentary, kind and loving, you strengthen the waters of the stream. On the other hand, if you say something hurtful, you “throw a rock” into the stream. After days, weeks, months or years of rocks being thrown into your communication stream, a blockage or dam develops, and no or little water can flow. The creation of a dam leads to the breakdown of communication.
Every moment, you are presented with the opportunity to strengthen and move closer to or obstruct and move further away from the ones you love.
The list below contains a few sample questions that I give clients to determine their level of interpersonal communication:
The answers to these questions help my clients clarify their communication strengths and weaknesses. I find that people usually fall into one of three categories when it comes to increasing or decreasing the water flow in their “communication river.”
The first category is successful. The second, could improve. The third, needs improvement.
If you fall into the first category, then you probably try to make most of your statements, actions and words create positive attachments and relationships. The second category is where most people fall. In this category, you sometimes have successful connections and communication, and at other times, your actions/ words develop barriers.
If you have thrown “rocks” into your communication river, then you might want to ask yourself, “What have I done to repair it?” The following steps will help you have more successful communication patterns:
1. Recognition: In order to repair a relationship, you need to recognize how the “rocks” have damaged your relationship. You need to perform an inventory of when, what and how you have hurt your relationship.
2. Knowledge: You need to take the time and effort to learn healthy communication skills. You may discover new tools from books at the library, or you can contact me about an upcoming communication workshop.
3. Persistence: Just like the blockage didn’t develop in one day, it may take time for your partner to heal from hurts caused by the “rocks.”
If you fall into the third category, then most of your communication is critical, hurtful and damaging. You may not want to be that way, but your relationship needs you to learn a new, healthier style. Therefore, if you see yourself as creating a dam in your “communication river,” then the steps in the second category apply to you, too, but I would also recommend therapy. Therapy is frequently needed because these unhealthy communication patterns are ingrained. Therapy will guide you through the steps to learn and apply new communication skills.
Today is an opportunity to develop loving bonds with your spouse. Look at ways to remove the “rocks” that are blocking your relationship, and increase your loving gestures.
Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.