This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Dear John Alan L. Schroeder Ashford University Instructor: Martin Earl Roach COM200 November 4, 2012
DEAR JOHN Dear John and Abby,
Congratulations on your recent marriage! I wish all the best to you both in the future, and there are a few things that I have learned that will help you communicate effectively and maintain a healthy relationship. I will discuss five main points that should help you understand your roles including active listening, self-disclosure, gender differences, the effects of words on perception, and strategies for managing any conflict that arises. Above all else, I believe that good communication is the key to a successful relationship, and if you take my advice you should be well on your path to happiness with each other in the years to come.
Active Listening I believe that a daily communication routine is important to any close relationship, and that would especially include your marriage. Not just mundane exchanges like, “What‟s for dinner?” or “What‟s on T.V. tonight?” - but meaningful conversations that allow you to get to know each other better. According to the “Can we talk?” article, Terri Orbuch recommends a 10minute talk time to ask questions, and listen to your partner‟s questions and responses. I can relate to the fact that an increased rate of self-disclosure successfully influences a relationship. Most of us are great at talking, but lack listening skills which are a fundamental part of effective communication. Usually a person‟s mind works faster than their mouth does, and this leaves a lot of extra time for their thoughts to wander when they should be paying attention. In fact, most people can understand words about four to five times faster than they can speak them (Sole, 2011). I know that sometimes Abby gets excited, and when she gets on a roll, she could be said to have somewhat of a “motor-mouth.” Even after her morning mocha latte, when she is speaking at her fastest, she doesn‟t come close to overloading your brain, (even if you haven‟t had an espresso yet!) Remember that just hearing is not the same as listening. John may hear Abby yell downstairs to take the garbage out, but if he wasn‟t listening, he will most likely forget and then he would really hear about it later! You must motivate yourself, and expect to receive some information to truly listen. You must also be able to clearly hear the message. Sometimes physical interference (like the T.V. in the background) or even internal noise (if you are preoccupied with a video game) can prevent you from hearing the message. Sometimes when we can‟t hear clearly, we fill in the missing parts of the message ourselves, which can be bad. So when the radio is blaring, and you are also concentrating on assembling a model airplane, and Abby yells, “John, please, take out the garbage,” you might actually hear “John, please rake outside the garage!” Trust me, no matter how much you rake the leaves outside, she will not be happy if the garbage is still in the trash can (Sole, 2011).
Once you correctly hear the message, then you must interpret it. Sometimes even when you correctly hear the words, miscommunication will result because the sender intends something entirely different than the receiver thinks they do. For instance, “the garbage” may not just refer to the kitchen trash can, but in fact all of the garbage cans in the house. Once you hear and interpret the message correctly, the next step is to decide how you will respond. This evaluation depends on hearing the entire message, and not prematurely judging based on any misconceptions. In this case, Abby‟s message was short enough that John shouldn‟t have time jump to any wrong conclusions (Sole, 2011). The final step required in this listening process, (I know that it involves a lot more than you ever thought,) is remembering and responding appropriately. Each situation requires a different type of response, and this is the time to ask any questions you may have. If you were not sure about raking the leaves outside the garage, and asked for clarification you would find out that you had heard wrong in the first place. Also if you wanted to make sure which trash cans she was referring to, it‟s best to ask that now. Sometimes paraphrasing the request, and repeating it back shows that you understand and will provide feedback to her demonstrating this. Either way it‟s probably more useful than just shouting “okay” back up the stairs.
Self-Disclosure Self-disclosure is both the conscious and unconscious act of revealing more about oneself to others. The “Can we talk?” article says that, “In 1987, a review in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that higher rates of self-disclosure were tied with higher rates of marital satisfaction. Expression of love and support was also linked to happy marriages” (Schoenberg, 2011, p. 1). The principle of self-disclosure affects the overall happiness and outcome of a relationship. In my personal experience, expression of love and support has been the key to my relationship success. I don‟t think you should rush into a marriage, if your relationship hasn‟t achieved this point. Hopefully you both understand this key point and have established an appropriate level of self-disclosure in your relationship prior to getting married. Later on in 2010, a higher quality of marriage was linked to higher rates of self-disclosure (Schoenberg, 2011). I agree that self-disclosure is a key to a marriage‟s quality and success. I have the unique advantage of experiencing a failed marriage, as I‟m sure you know. It‟s very hard to reach the point of self-disclosure if the relationship has other fundamental communication problems, and this is what ultimately doomed mine.
DEAR JOHN Gender
There are fundamental gender differences that affect how males and females convey their thoughts and emotions. Orbuch says that men tend to favor gestures of affirmation while women tend to go with verbal affirmation (Schoenberg, 2011). As a man, I can see how I could improve my relationships by just saying something nice every so often. I can also realize that when a woman says those things to me, instead of doing something, that she means the same thing. Keep these differences in mind as you approach future situations because miscommunication can result. Married couples tend to misunderstand each other more often than not. According to a study discussed in a US News & World Report article, “spouses sometimes communicate with each other no better than strangers do” (Relationships, 2011, p. 1). One of the study‟s authors, Boaz Keysar referred to a phenomenon called „closeness-communication bias‟ which caused people to overestimate the degree of communication with those closest to them. Because you interact with people that are close to you more often, it does not necessarily mean that they understand you better. When people are dating, they often make compromises of perception in the “honeymoon” period that gloss over important differences. When John said that he liked football, Abby agreed that sports were fun to watch. I have always known John to be a Minnesota Vikings fanatic, and he was one of the students who painted his entire body to attend the home team games in college. Because John and Abby were merely dating, when John brought up the fact that he enjoyed the game, and Abby agreed, they moved on to another subject without delving too deep into the extent of his near-obsession. This is a perfect example of one difference that males and females may have.
Perception Interpersonal communication only works if all of its components work. The sender and receiver must both be actively engaged to convey the message over a proper communication channel or medium (Sole, 2011). When speaking, you must first properly use language to encode the message. In the University of Illinois study, the wife interpreted “it‟s getting hot in here” as a hint to turn up the heat, while the husband thought it meant a code for sex (Relationships, 2011). Although the same words could be interpreted either way, the speaker obviously had a specific meaning Environment or noise can both affect the message transmission. For example if the phrase had been uttered in the bedroom, maybe they both would have had the husband‟s idea. Also psychological noise could have caused interference with the husband‟s interpretation. Possibly the temperature in the room felt comfortable to him, but sex was on his mind.
The merits of everyday communication are not something unique to this article. The text “Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication” says, “We often tend to take these everyday conversations for granted because they are such a common part of our lives” (Sole, 2011, p. 146). Conversations are our means of sharing ideas through communicating our thoughts. If two people in a relationship cannot share their thoughts, then how can there be any communication? It is important to monitor Abby‟s feedback when you are expressing ideas. Make sure to check for visual cues that she understands what you are saying. If you notice a confused or perplexed look, then elaborate on the point. Remember that words will most likely not have the exact same meaning to you and her. In my opinion, it is better to err on the side of caution, and if you receive neutral feedback, or none at all, it is better to over-explain than to proceed. Keeping all of these components working will help you to prevent communication problems in the future. In my past relationships, I have failed to monitor how I come across to those that are closest to me, and because of that fact most of them do not exist. Perception creates reality, and your words influence each other‟s perception.
Managing Conflict No matter how well you each think you are doing, you will no doubt encounter conflict at some point in the relationship. According to “Conflict Resolution,” this results when certain conditions are met: • Two people are interdependent; they each need something from the other. • Both parties blame the other or find fault with them for causing the problem. • One or more of the parties is angry or emotionally upset. • The parties‟ behaviors are affecting their relationship with each other and/or their relationships with others (Dana, 2000). Let me give you an example based on my personal experience that will illustrate this criteria. When I first got married, we each had a working vehicle but the truck I was using had mechanical problems during the winter. This left us only one vehicle to use between the two of us, and we both had jobs that were out of town, and required us to drive to work. We had to share her car, and I would drive her to work in the morning, drop her off, and take the car back to go to my job during the day. In return for using her car, I would help her coach track practice and work at the home meets while my truck was broken, because I would be there to pick her up anyway.
DEAR JOHN This arrangement only lasted a couple weeks, and there was only one home meet for me to help with. Because I had used her car almost every day during that time though, she felt entitled to more help from me, even after I had my truck back. I felt that I had fulfilled the letter of the agreement, and didn‟t owe her any more extracurricular time because I was no longer using her car. This caused her to become emotionally upset, and definitely affected her behavior towards me at home.
This conflict actually turned out to be constructive after we discussed the main issue behind her anger. The resolution was as simple as me offering to help at the rest of the home track meets that I could make it to. In fact, I even recruited my mom to volunteer with me once I had identified that lack of help was her main cause of stress. Avoidance of conflict is not always bad, but can become a destructive pattern. Researchers found that failed marriages follow the pattern where, “angry words are exchanged, the anger escalates, and then the withdrawal occurs. In other words, in failing marriages, negative emotions overwhelm the interaction between the parties, who then withdraw from each other” (Zautra, 2003). This is not healthy and should be avoided at all costs. Whenever possible, try to resolve conflict rather than avoiding it. It‟s best to be assertive, rather than passive, aggressive, or even passive-aggressive. My text book “Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication” says that, “Learning to use an assertive communication style allows you to openly and honestly express your feelings and is generally the most constructive way to deal with conflict” (Sole, 2011, p. 212).
Conclusion Overall, it‟s not hard to do these things once you recognize what they are. Whether you have learned them through experience, or learned them from a textbook, active listening, selfdisclosure, recognizing gender differences, managing perception and conflict are important parts of any relationship. Your marriage is dependent upon these cornerstones as well, and communication should remain a key factor throughout the relationship. Even sharing thoughts for just ten minutes a day can make a difference over time, in the quality of any relationship. Best of luck in the future, my friends! Sincerely, your friend, ~Alan
DEAR JOHN References:
Close relationships sometimes mask poor communication. (2011). U.S.News & World Report, 1. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/852775455?accountid=32521 Dana, D. (2000). Conflict resolution. Blacklick, OH: McGraw–Hill Professional Book Group. Judy, K. M. (2006). Your competitive edge: The art of interpersonal communication. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 28(1), 56-58. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213790608?accountid=32521 Schoenberg, N. (2011, Jan 17). Can we talk? Researcher talks about the role of communication in happy marriages. McClatchy - Tribune News Service. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/840600645?accountid=32521 Sole, K. (2011). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Zautra, A. J. (2003). Emotions, stress, and health. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.