Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young
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Improving communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw

We all know how to talk, but vary in our ability to communicate. In school we learn to read and write: we get a grounding in the mechanics. We also learn how to communicate ideas; how to use those mechanics to convey our thoughts.

What is seldom taught is how to use those communication skills to truly connect with others, to express our needs, and to really listen to others. As a consequence, although there may be much talking, many words exchanged, often there is little communication.

The word communication comes from the word commune, which means, to be in a state of intimate, heightened sensitivity and receptivity, as with ones surroundings.

Imagine now, a conversation between spouses, or between a parent and teen, in which both parties were in a state of intimate, heightened sensitivity and receptivity. Wow.

That would really be something.

Of course there are times when this naturally occurs, when two people are very tuned in to one another. It is not, however, the norm. More often communication consists of two people talking at each other. This leads to arguments rather than understanding.

The single most effective shift one can make to improve communication is to truly listen to what the other is saying. Expressing the intent to really understand the others point of view is both honoring and respectful. Chances are the other will then be open to really hearing your view.

This way of communicating is not about being right, or proving a point. It is about caring what another thinks and feels. This is as important, if not more so, than the actual message communicated.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit

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