Communication leads to Communion


Many couples stop talking and stop connecting. Layers and layers of small miscommunications over time create separation. Partners are then lonely, distant from one another without really knowing why. They become busier, more distracted with external circumstances and less attuned to themselves and their partner. In time, this can lead to an “invisible divorce”.

An illustration of this is portrayed in the movie Shall We Dance. John (Richard Gere) is afraid to tell his wife (Susan Sarandon) something deep and meaningful for fear of hurting her.

Ultimately, his ‘withhold’ has the potential of creating a significant amount of stress on their relationship as well as raising more doubt and fear. Fortunately, what you do see in this clip is his vulnerable disclosure of his inner experience. This creates an opening for understanding and repairs the connection.

An important part of feeling emotionally safe with our partners is being able to address areas of vulnerability and conflict. Feeling emotionally safe restores trust and intimacy – the heart of any relationship. Learning and practicing powerful communication tools is necessary for maintaining communion: a place of unity and connection.

Guidelines for Listening:

  • Check in with yourself. Are you available to listen or are you distracted by something else? If you are unavailable, let your partner know when you will be (within 24 hours).
  • Breathe deeply, relax your belly, and drop back a bit so you are in a receptive stance, not perched to respond. Keep focused on breathing and relaxing.
  • Face your partner and make eye contact as much possible.
  • Listen with the intention of understanding and entering the other’s world, not teaching, analyzing, fixing, interrupting or defending yourself.
  • Note any inner desire to jump in quickly, give advice, smooth over the pain, or talk about yourself. Take a breath.
  • If you want to say something, check your motivation. Is there judgement or uneasiness behind it? Do you feel eager to quiet his/her worries, cheer him/her up, or start talking about yourself? If so, wait. Breathe. Pull back.
  • Be curious while listening. Having a curious mind will assist you in staying out of reactivity or the need to respond.
  • Show that you are listening. While sometimes it is enough to listen in complete silence, it might be helpful to paraphrase…”.what I am hearing you say is….or “oh, you must really upset” or “what a tough situation.” The person will usually give a sign of relief because he/she feels listened to.
  • Temporarily put aside what you want to say, waiting for your turn. Continue to be receptive so that your partner feels fully heard.
  • Ask “is there more?”….this will invite your partner to share more about themselves.
  • Validate where your partner is coming from (if you can). This may mean stepping into your partner’s world and saying that “they make sense”. Remember, validation does not mean agreement, just that you see their perspective or point of view. Being understood and validated can also create a sigh of relief and connection.
  • Notice when conversation takes on a spontaneous, easy flow of listening and responding. Register how that feels.
  • Take in how much you can hear and what you hear. If a conversation feels overwhelming, you can softly interrupt… “I really want to hear what you are saying, but I am feeling overwhelmed with so much detail. Can you please make things more concise with pauses in between so that I am able to hear you accurately and fully?” In other words, you can say the truth and be kind.

Guidelines for Speaking:

  • Breathe, relax your shoulders, and drop into your belly so your words can arise from an inner stillness. Don’t speak while holding your breath. Often people take a deep breath and start talking rapidly as if they want to get it all out before someone stops them.
  • Remember that true connection usually comes from sharing personal experiences.
  • Avoid excess detail. Get to the heart of your message. Extensive background or information or details about other people often obscure the essence of your experience. Remember, it is usually uninteresting to talk at length about people unknown to the listener.
  • Notice the energy level of the conversation. A true connection will feel alive and flowing. If the energy drops, or you start feeling tight or blank in your chest, or the words seems flat, pull back and tap into your experience, name what is happening, take a break or end the conversation.
  • Allow moments of silence. Pause at the end of a couple of sentences and breathe so the other person can respond and you can hear yourself.
  • Notice how the listener is responding. Is she restless, looking away, or tapping her fingers? This usually signifies she is not with you and you need to pause. You could even check in…. “Am I rambling?” Do you need me to take pause?”
  • Recognize when it’s time to end the conversation. Sometimes we want to keep talking because we feel a good when listened to (many of us didn’t get listened to enough or heard enough). You can say – “I really appreciate you hearing me and I enjoyed talking with you” or “I am ready to hear you now!”

Note: there are some basic ways that people block connection in conversation. Usually, it’s when we don’t stay tuned in with both the message and the feelings.

How we Block Connection:

  • Taking the conversations back to yourself. As in “I did that too”. Someone says, “I’m going to Virginia for vacation” and the other person says, “Oh, my son lives there,” and then starts talking about their son.
  • Analyzing. Person A says, “I’m so upset that Jack has taken a second job,” and Person B responds, “Maybe it’s because….” or “Do you think it’s because…” This takes the conversation out of an emotional level into a left-brain analysis of someone who isn’t even present. The listener isn’t responding to the feeling of the speaker and the connection is lost.
  • Shifting the topic to someone else, “My sister has that problem.”
  • Not responding at all – looking blank, shuffling your feet, scanning the ceiling.
  • Making patronizing statements “Everyone goes through that.” “You’ll be alright.” “Don’t be afraid, there’s nothing to worry about.”
  • Responding with platitudes, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” “I’m sure it’s an important lessen for your growth.”
  • Changing the subject completely. “Oh, by the way, did you hear about the new sporting goods store about to open?”
  • Interrupting to ask for unimportant details, like dates, times, places, “How long has this been going on?” “Where did it happen?” This shifts the conversation from the essence of the experience into facts and figures, which keep up away from connection.

Be attuned to your partner as you focus and “try on” these methods of communication.  Note: These are just guidelines. As you explore each other’s ways, of what works and what doesn’t work, you’ll become more highly attuned to making connection and having communion through conversation.

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