by Pam Wanzer
Life is a journey—a journey we rarely are on alone. Each of us has a different story because of our own unique life experiences. These experiences help form our perspective and become the basis for the way in which we deal with relationships.
As we are on our journey with those important to us, we quickly discover others have a different perspective, which is a result of their experiences.
In searching for answers and resolutions with regard to relationship counseling, one would find a long list of key attributes. In order to utilize any of them, however, the first one to acknowledge and work on is the most basic—communication.
Communication is defined as the process by which information is exchanged between two people. It is a process where we try as clearly and as accurately as we can to convey thoughts, intentions and objectives.
Most misunderstandings begin with the words, “I didn’t know you felt that way.”
Until two people find common ground by talking and listening, they cannot truly understand one another—their joys, pain, needs or desires.
The first step in finding that common ground is providing a safe environment for one person to open up and speak from his or her heart, knowing the other person will truly listen. Providing a safe environment means eliminating outside distractions, making eye contact and being aware of body language. Awareness of emotions and attitudes being displayed is key for the speaker as well as the listener. It’s essential to speak and listen with empathy.
The most important key to listening is “listening with your heart.” Listen unconditionally with unconditional love. Listen without an agenda. Listen selflessly—without prejudice, bias or criticism. The listener should be open-minded, without preconceived ideas about what is being said or what he or she wants the outcome of the conversation to be.
The speaker should determine what he or she wants to say and why. Speakers need to understand clearly the purpose and intent of the message they wish to have heard. When a speaker makes eye contact, it inspires trust and confidence. In order to truly speak from the heart, one must feel safe to speak without fear of risk, ridicule, criticism or rejection.
As in life, when there is conflict or disagreement, the basic goal is typically that of winning. However, if there is a winner, then there must also be a loser. When it comes to relationships, this causes an imbalance or division in the relationship. The focus becomes more on who wins each time, or, more importantly, who wins the most. When this becomes the predominant focus of the relationship instead of resolving the issue at hand or coming to a satisfactory resolution together, the harmony of the relationship is at risk.
Being that relationships are ever changing because life is ever changing, they require constant communication. Setting aside key times to talk, providing a safe environment and being able to speak from the heart with someone truly listening with his or her heart are critical to a healthy relationship.
Pam Wanzer is a certified grief recovery specialist and the founder of An Interrupted Life Foundation, a nonprofit helping people transition through the many changes in life. Her book, Lifting the Veil: Journey to a New Life, shares her tragedy with the hope of easing others’ transitions through catastrophic events.