As a marriage and family therapist, I watch and listen to members of families communicate with each other on a daily basis.  It seems as if this should be a normal and natural part of being in a relationship, but yet, it’s the thing that can leave us with feelings of hurt, anger, or sadness for being misunderstood.  Listening is one part of the communication process.  “When we see sadness or depression in someone, we tend to assume that something has happened.  Maybe that something is that nobody’s listening.”  That is a quote from the book, The Lost Art of Listening, by Michael P. Nichols, PhD.  Listening should be a natural thing, but it isn’t.  That’s why he was able to write an entire book about how to listen effectively.  Many times when we were are in a disagreement with someone, we are so busy focusing on formulating our answer and defending our position to reply, that we have stopped listening to what the other person is saying.  Good communication involves not only good listening skills, but also effective ways to communicate our point.  Tone, choice of words, emotion, and body language are all parts of communication.  I heard a statistic once that up to 80% of what we communicate is non-verbal.  I find that to be true.  If I’m in the kitchen and slam the cabinet doors and my family says, “What’s the matter?” and I say, “NOTHING!”.  What are they believing?  That nothing is really wrong (because that’s what I said) or that I am angry?  We also communicate in what we don’t say.  If someone crosses a boundary we have and we don’t say anything about it, we have effectively told them it’s OK what you just did.  Silence is a green light.  I have just touched upon the tip of the iceberg in regards to effective communication.  It’s really not as easy as it sounds.

Sheri Miller

Sheri graduated with her B.S. ED and M.S. from Northern Illinois University

Why is good, effective communication so difficult?

► Sheri Miller time to read: 1 min