As social beings, humans tend to form different relationships with other people, other than those that exist as a result of familial ties. In addressing the role and vitality of communication in any relationship, I will refer to my relationship with my wife since I believe that it provides a good example of how communication influences relationships. My wife and I have been married for 28 years and have been blessed with three beautiful daughters whom we love. Our marriage has been through numerous upheavals and it is through communication that we have been able to resolve issues and maintained our marriage for this long. It is thus important for me to look deeply into the role that communication has played in my marriage in terms of enhancing my perception of self and others, developing my self-presentation, my verbal and non-verbal communication abilities and my emotions and dealing with conflict in general.
Different aspects of communication determine their impact on an individual. Having been in a relationship for as long as 28 years, the aspect of dual perspective has been important in limiting my self-centeredness and learning to view situations from the other person point of view. I recall this one time when my wife and I were faced with the dilemma of whether or not to enroll our youngest daughter for emergent learning. I felt that hiring a nanny who doubled as a tutor would be best, but my wife felt that a school setting would be suitable for our child based on the resources that such an environment provided. However, after talking to my wife at length, I realized that she wanted our daughter to develop a variety of skills through interaction, to make her transition easier. This was one of the experiences that trained me to assess both points of perspectives rather stick to my own view. Additionally, the past few years has seen us commit to ethical and effective communication to ensure that the information we pass is well-received and understood. This component of communication entails honesty and requires that the other party pays attention and is respectful as communication occurs. When my wife was considering going back to school, I took it upon myself to pay attention to her concerns and was able to give her my honest opinion regarding how she would be able to juggle between family, school and work. I advised her to study part-time, as I felt that being honest would make it easier for us to reach a conclusion.
Both situations have been useful in enhancing my sense of perception during communication, and have allowed me to understand where my partner is coming from based on the message that she passes when communicating. Additionally, the concept of perception also arises in situations when we have to distinguish between facts and inferences. The hazy line between understanding and misunderstanding exists as a result of these two factors and how they are interpreted subjectively. At one time, I accused my wife of being flirtatious with one of her workmates by being overfriendly, only for me to later realize that she was helping her friend through mourning the loss of his child. This experience helped me to be able to value the differences that separated a fact from an inference.
Communication between my wife and I has been imperative in promoting personal growth by providing situations that address the self. The provision of constructive criticism has encouraged positive growth for both of us and has encouraged us to be open to each other, hence providing a chance for self-disclosure. At one time, I remember telling my wife that my inability to call the plumber as she had requested only arose from my insecurity to feel emasculated. She was more accepting of me and decided to give me other 'masculine' duties around the house to shelf me from feeling insecure. Opening up to her allowed me to feel comfortable about telling her my other inward fears. Of importance is the interpretation of actions, especially since biased interpretation is responsible for how we perceive an action. I once failed to notice that my wife was going through a tough time having to juggle between work and school and the children, and concluded that our marriage was on the rocks. Just before seeking the services of a marriage counsellor, I decided to inquire and was surprised when she talked about how frustrated she was since she felt overwhelmed with all her duties. My self-serving bias had been negative and it was only a relief to find out that my reality was different from my interpretation.
These experiences aside, I feel that the two main aspects of communication are reliant on verbal and non-verbal cues. Verbally, my wife and I have accustomed ourselves to always use subjective terms rather than objective ones when providing explanations for our actions. Every time I make a mistake, I ensure that my apology is focused on what I did rather than how my wife was responsible for my actions. I once failed to pick our children from school since I was swamped with work and even failed to make alternative arrangements and I remember my wife being furious. In my apology, I was focused on giving an explanation rather than blaming her, and so I focused on why I had failed to pick the children up. Another important component that I have learned to apply when making verbal communication is the need to be clear and accurate when giving information (Wood, N.d.). Clarity enhances the message by making it more concrete rather than ambiguous. My decision to seek a different job ensured that I explained to my wife that having a back-up plan was better due to the retrenchment that was going on at my previous place of work. Non-verbally, we both understand that intimate connection can be expressed without words, and the communication of our feelings and attitude towards each other (Wood, N.d.). My wife and I make it a point to sit next to each other at social gatherings, with her leaning towards me to show our connection and the fact that she trusts me as her partner. Non-verbal communication is also a reflection of one's cultural values. As westerners, we value our time and feel it respectful when both of us are punctual to meetings, social gatherings and even date nights. This explains why on our anniversary date night, my lateness was met with hostility, with my wife claiming not to feel as loved as she once felt. Now that I understand the importance of such simple cues, I have learned to respect the importance of non-verbal communication as it is symbolic of a variety of factors within a relationship.
Having addressed communication in light of sharing information, I have also realized that listening also plays a very vital role in enhancing communication, and thus in maintaining a relationship. Initially, I had a tendency to monopolize conversations to talk about myself and my work. I remember when my wife was trying to tell me about her meeting at work where one of her workmates had tried to accuse her of being racist and I interfered, trying to tell her about a similar situation that had happened to me. Her response was "Not today Bert. Please wait until I conclude my story for you to give me your input". Not only was this an opportunity for growth, but it also helped me practice effective listening for the purpose of understanding the message rather than to merely respond. Our communication goal has thus been to listen for the purpose of being supportive to ensure that we do not pass judgment and that we are mindful of the other person's feelings. When my wife felt that our adolescent daughter was acting out, I initially dismissed it as her putting too much pressure on our daughter to be more like her. This ultimately meant that I had passed judgment and I had to retract my statement and offer support. I even offered to talk to our daughter about her recent behaviour. We have built on this communication goal to date, and have been mindful not to hurt the other's feelings without keenly evaluating the situation.
Communication has also been important in assessing emotions, creating a conducive climate to address our concerns and discuss various issues and resolve conflict (Wood, N.d). After being in a marriage for as long as I have been, emotional intelligence is an important aspect of a relationship, especially since it is linked to subjective happiness and satisfaction. One of the qualities of emotional intelligence is having a sense of optimism and is one of the major qualities that define me. When my wife felt that she would not be considered for a job promotion at her workplace because of the workload she had to juggle, I was able to encourage her that she was suitable for the job and that she would be considered since she had numerous good qualities that would suit the position. Addressing emotions also incorporates the need to identify primary feelings within a situation from the numerous feelings that an action may evoke within us (Wood, N.d). When my wife failed to show up for one of our office parties after offering her the invite, I felt sad that she had prioritized other activities over me. However, after assessing my situation, I realized that the primary feeling was a disappointment since I wanted her to see what I had been working on for the past few months. This assessment was vital in providing guidance on how to address the situation with my wife later that evening. It was essential in creating an appropriate communication climate where I was able to disclose my feelings to her. Setting a warm conversation climate has allowed my wife and me to be able to discuss different issues together. She once explained to me why she found it annoying that I would subtly brag about my job every time we went out with friends. I initially felt the need to be defensive but realized that she was coming from a good place in trying to correct me. Such experiences have helped us improve our communication by allowing for openness through the creation of supportive climates. I was able to comfortably tell my wife that she became nagging whenever her mother was around, and she chose to seek ways to adjust rather than get angry. This climate was comfortable enough to prevent any need to be defensive and ensured that I also found a way to cope with the situation.
Like in every relationship, conflicts have not been rare in my marriage. However, their intensity and recurrence have been reduced by communication. I initially responded to conflicts by neglecting an argument so that it would cease. I remember when I continuously failed to pass by the grocery store after the birth of our second daughter and when my wife brought it up, I tried to deflect, hoping that it would end. However, after understanding that our responses to the conflict would determine how long we would last, I chose to provide responses as a show of commitment to my wife. A separate time, she got angry about my failure to help out in the kitchen while we had guests. At this point, I promised that I would do my best to help her out whenever our friends came over to ensure that she was not overwhelmed. I have kept this promise to date. We also abide by the rule that none of us is to go to bed while angry at the other person.
Having assessed the transition that we have undergone in our marriage, I can confidently say that my wife also doubles as my best friend. Our communication as friends is guided by honesty and openness. I constantly share my goals with my wife, especially since they partly affect her, such as me choosing to take up part-time classes. Our relational dialectic is openness and helps reduce tension between us. I remember being able to ask my wife to stop working temporarily after the birth of our last daughter and was able to explain why I thought this would be helpf...
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