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Effective communication is essential to relationships

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Craig Carpenter
  • 375th Medical operations squadron
More than likely, you are familiar with the famous line from Rush Hour, "Are you hearing the words that are coming out of my mouth!" I am quite sure more than a few readers just said the line out loud or are picturing this part of the movie. While this is one way to communicate a message it may not be received well. Effective communication is essential to fostering healthy relationships with our family, friends, and fellow wingmen.

It may not be the words coming out of your mouth which affect your relationships. In a recent study conducted by California State-Fullerton approximately 60 percent of communication is non-verbal. Non-verbal communication may include eye contact, body language, gestures, facial expressions, and physical appearance. The non-verbal communication you present may determine whether someone reaches out to you for help.

If your friend, family member, or wingman is going through a tough time and is thinking of approaching you, he/she may decide otherwise if they observe your negative body language. Negative body language may include: crossed arms, leaning back, appearance of being distracted, negative facial expressions, impatience, yawning, and fidgeting. Instead, focus on positive body language to welcome their communication. Positive body language may include: smiling, relaxed posture, good eye contact, leaning closer and gesturing warmly.

Closely related to our non-verbal behavior is another crucial part of communication; listening.

Listening is another part of non-verbal feedback, which can also include some verbal communication as well. Some great techniques for listening are active and reflective listening. The active listening technique is more than standing there without saying anything. Use acknowledgement both verbally and non-verbally by responding with a nod, facial expression, or saying something like, "I see", or "uh-huh." Use appropriate eye-contact and use open body language such as uncrossing your arms.

Carl Rogers, creator of reflective listening, defines reflective listening as reflecting back what you heard the other person say and affirming the feelings the person may be experiencing. An example of this during a conversation may include: 1) So I heard you say, work has been tough lately. Is that right? 2) You must have felt stressed. How did that make you feel? 3) Is there anything else? 4) I can see how you would feel that way.
To have healthy two-way communication and relationships we must voice, the dreaded F-word, our "feelings." Some individuals have a difficult time discussing their feelings; however there is a simple way to talk about them called "I-Statements." You can use "I" Statements at work, home, and any other time you want to discuss how you feel.

The University of Iowa, describes "I" Statements as allowing the speaker to express their feelings and tell the other person what they would like them to do differently in a less threatening way. For example, instead of telling your partner, "You're never on time," you can restate using an "I" statement and express yourself in a way that is less blaming. "I feel that when you come late, you don't care that much about me. I get annoyed and angry. I'd like it if you could try to be on time."

With the high demands of work, home, and life sometimes we need some downtime to give ourselves a break. Let's be honest; at times we don't feel like talking to anyone.
If you are at this point stop and use another communication technique called "self-talk." Self-talk can assist you in managing and minimizing your worries and concerns. You can ask yourself a number of questions to clarify your worries. You could use some of the following self-talk questions such as: "What exactly am I worrying about; don't assume the worst will happen; I will be able to figure out ways of coping with this; it may be better if I talk through this with someone I trust."

The military community needs effective communicators who seek healthy relationships in our workplaces, homes, deployed environments, and community. As wingmen and warriors we should be looking out for one another on a daily basis. Be the wingman who someone wants to approach with their concerns.

If you are the person experiencing a situation or circumstance speak to a friend, co-worker, spouse, or supervisor. If you find this is not resolving the situation, you might consider contacting a chaplain at 256-3303, or contacting Mental Health to schedule an appointment at 256-7386 or walk-in during normal clinic hours (Monday- Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except holidays and Wing Training Day afternoons). The Family Advocacy office is also available at 256-7203.