When we were getting married, my girlfriend was at our house for dinner and my Dad sat us down and gave us a 2-hour lecture on the value of communication. “This is the number one thing!” he told us. “Talk about everything!” My dad had one too many glasses of red wine that night, and I didn’t take his advice too seriously. But it’s a conversation I’ve never forgotten. Now I’m married and have a child I can see that he was right.
Let’s face it. Communicating is intimidating. We can get nervous, experience inferiority complex, and fear being misunderstood. But it’s crucial to overcome these feelings and build the skills of good communication, for relationships at home and in the workplace. Unfortunately, we only learn these skills by doing it. At school we’re taught many things, but not this. If we’ve had good models in our parents, it helps. I am lucky that my parents have a great relationship and demonstrated good communication. But whatever your background, you can learn the skills to do this well.
Communication is about emotional intelligence, self-awareness, articulation and anticipating how the other person will receive your words. It’s about being two steps ahead, listening to the other person and seeking to understand them. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
The night my girlfriend and I spent with my dad was so valuable. He sat us down and said “I will not talk about anything else. You guys will make your decisions. I won’t tell you where you should live, or how many kids you should have. But I will tell you this – you’re a team. And like any team, you must learn to communicate your feelings. You must feel safe to raise all the tough topics like money, sex, and what makes you unhappy. The things you’d naturally avoid talking about are the ones it’s most important to discuss.”
Dad was right. We knew we loved each other, but he gave us value for figuring out the practical things. It’s not just what you talk about – it’s about the habit of talking about everything. That’s the secret.