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Today’s Guest Blog Post entitled Love Relate- Communicate! is by Andrea Nettel, Counsellor and Founder of The Family Counselling Center in Valyland, Fish Hoek.

Love Relate – Communicate!

Relate and Connect!

At the very essence of our being we are relational.

We have been created, moulded and designed to connect with other human beings. We have developed and grown to relate and communicate with each other, with our environment and with our spirit. Our greatest achievements are often measured on how successful we relate and connect with people. This is illustrated by the collective works of artists throughout the ages. Countless paintings, sculptures, collections of poetry and prose, music, architecture and fashion, all aim to relate and communicate. Think about your own life – your most treasured memories are probably moments shared, like the birth of a child, the carefree holiday ride to the beach with friends, celebrating an achievement with peers and loved ones sharing a meal. Relating grows joy!

The greatest loss humanity suffers is when connections are broken. The disconnection to our planet, the broken families, the rise of anxiety and depression due to the artificial drive towards autonomy and independence. Separation grows emotional poverty and promotes hopelessness. You probably remember your saddest moments as being lonely, dark, shrouded in grey mist and unable to connect. Maybe you remember those moments to be like a deafening hurricane separating you from the peace and love once experienced.

It is for this reason that humans have, and always will be, ingenious in finding ways to connect and communicate. From the prehistoric rock paintings, the already mentioned pieces of art to unimaginable technology developing as we speak; inventions of the past, like the telephone, the automobile and the smart phone of today were created out of our inherent need to relate, connect and communicate.

Simply put.

As relational beings we are the healthiest when we successfully connect with other human beings. The way we relate and connect with others is called communication.

Communication Barriers

No wonder then, that we fall into confusion and despair when communication breaks down.  A broken phone connection, a lost letter in the mail, a lack of internet connection, electricity outages, wearing masks, hearing loss, speech impediments and languages differences are common physical barriers to communication. Over time the loss in connection because of these barriers can lead to relationships crumbling. The resulting isolation will ultimately lead to despair and hopelessness.

Endless funds and efforts are poured into eliminating barriers to effective communication. I can appreciate the endeavours of inventors and developers that will aid communication. However, I do not believe that their achievements will ever be the solution to the breakdown of communication and the resulting isolation.

Healthy communication does not require the absence of barriers but rather it needs the awareness of barriers to communication – physical AND internal barriers.

Internal communication barriers could be age, culture, religion, gender, or political views. Emotions such as unforgiveness, being in love, loss, jealousy, frustration or anger are also internal barriers. Daily stresses and anxious thinking patterns block communication. There is no way we can ever eliminate all these barriers. In fact, I don’t think we would want to necessarily eliminate them from our being. They are in part what makes us unique individuals.

Understanding Communication

Generally, communication is understood to be, making a statement or what is called “Sending a message.”

Sometimes we are aware that the communication is only complete once the message has been received by the intended “receiver”.  That is where we generally stop and congratulate ourselves because we have successfully completed the communication.

Not so.

To effectively communicate the “receiver” needs to give feedback and confirm that the message was indeed received and understood. The original “sender” then needs to receive this feedback and check if what they sent was correctly received and understood.

Essentially Effective interpersonal Communication is a 4-step process:

Step 1:             A message is sent by the “Sender”.

Step 2:             A message is received by the “Receiver”.

Step 3:             Feedback is sent from the “Receiver”.

Step 4:             The original “Sender” receives the feedback.

Effective communication

In-person, when we are relaxed and when there are hardly any barriers, we effortlessly weave through these 4 steps, unconscious of the continuous back and forth. We communicate well, and we feel connected.  It is when there are barriers that the communication breaks down because the 4 steps are no longer seamlessly flowing.

Imagine a Formula-1 car is driving around the racetrack doing a warmup. It effortlessly glides in and out of the bends and completes the lap easily.  Now imagine the Formula-1 car completing the lap at its maximum speed. It takes more concentration and effort from the driver to complete the lap.

And now imagine an accident on the track, debris on the road and smoke clouding the driver’s vision. Now the driver needs to slow down to a crawl and navigate each obstacle carefully and consciously so that he can complete the lap.

Effective communication in this comparison is completing the lap.  Sometimes it is easy going and simple. Sometimes it is fast and stressful needing high concentration to finish. And other times it is extremely slow. No matter the speed. The goal is to complete the lap successfully.

The goal is to complete the communication because that is what connects us to one other. Understand, that effective communication is not necessarily understanding or agreeing with the subject matter but rather the connections made and maintained. These connections lead to a continuous healthy relationship with your loved ones.

If you are struggling with connecting to a loved one, slow it down. Check for possible barriers. Physical barriers such as technology problems, hearing loss, wearing a mask and internal barriers such as emotions and mental stress.  Once you are aware of the barriers you can either try and eliminate them or navigate around them consciously by applying the 4-steps of communication.

Being intentional about your communication mends broken connections and shifts experiences from being lonely, dark, shrouded moments in mist to treasured memories of moments shared.

Andrea Nettel attained her Diploma in Counselling and Communications (with distinction) from the South African College of Applied Psychology. Andrea has successfully worked with individuals and families struggling with the effects of anxiety, depression, anger, divorce, disability, rape, abuse and neglect. She has worked in communities dealing with severe aggression and gang violence. She sees the individual as part of a system and works together with her clients to encourage healthy relationships. Andrea has a special interest in trauma and its effects on the individual, the family and the community. Andrea works with parents and caregivers during times when stresses such as special needs, disability or trauma feel overwhelming, and provides support to individuals struggling with life’s challenges. The Family Counselling Centre was born out of her passion to reconnect families by developing understanding for one another. Andrea is also the Co-Founder of Int-A-Link, an organisation promoting intersectoral communication between government, NGO and the private sector. Contact Andrea by visiting The Family Counselling Centre – Building Healthy Relationships! or contact us here.