…the underlying support for communication which is the foundation for all relationships.
Let me begin by explaining the title/subtitle of this article. I have a construction background; I worked in the trades for many years and even ran my own remodeling company. I have remodeled bathrooms, updated kitchens, added rooms, and even built houses. Using a house as an analogy for building human relationships has been done (probably to death). And we have all heard about how communication is so vital for any relationship. It is the foundation. What some people may not know is that the foundation’s lowest part, the structure that supports the rest of the foundation, is called the “footing”. It is a layer of concrete poured below the frost line (the point at which the soil is deep enough that it never freezes), upon which the foundation walls are built.
If communication is the foundation, then I want to expound upon the footing. As I said, footings are made of concrete which has several key components. Concrete is a mixture of aggregate (rocks and sand for structural support), cement (the “glue” or binding agent that reacts with water), and water (the catalyst). Likewise, communication has key components that can be explained this way.
The aggregate (structure) for communication involves several processes that are essential for communication to take place. Essentially, information must be transmitted, received, and confirmed.
Transmission of information involves one person sending information to another. This can be done aurally or visually. Verbal communication is usually the first type we think about when we begin a discussion of communication, but nonverbal communication (facial expressions, gestures, and body language) actually accounts for a significant portion of communication that takes place between people (percentages range wildly, and there is no way to truly determine an accurate, definitive ratio of nonverbal to verbal, but it is a key component).
Transmission alone would be pointless. That information needs to be received too. In addition to listening and watching, eye-contact and mental attentiveness are the responsibilities of the receiver(s). Furthermore, the receiver needs to confirm that the information has been received. Have you ever had a conversation with someone on the more severe end of the autism spectrum? (I am not minimizing or disparaging autism in any way!) It can be difficult to know if anything is being received. Usually, there is no verbal acknowledgment, no nonverbal cues, and often there is no eye contact. Although autistic individuals are usually paying attention and hear it all, their communication challenges make it appear otherwise.
Communication requires information to be transferred, received, and confirmed, repeatedly and in both directions (with transmitter and receiver trading places). These are the rocks and sand of “concrete” communication.
The binding agent or cement in effective communication is comprised of understanding and some degree of empathy. Internalizing what is being communicated is crucial. As we process what the other person is communicating, we shift the perspective much like a lens shifts the direction of light. Doing so can bring clarity and new ideas.
When the receiving parties mentally adjust to view information from the transmitting person’s perspective, empathy can begin to form. Empathy is very powerful in relationship building. Not only does it help the other person feel valued and heard, but it builds an increased capacity for the valuing care of other people. All of this helps bind or cement the communication process between transmitter and receiver.
For communication to take place, however, there still needs to be a catalyst. When water is added to cement, after some time the cement hardens or solidifies. The result is something that is neither rock, sand, cement, nor water. It is concrete, a distinct product. Similarly, the synergy that takes place when 2 or more people are exchanging verbal and nonverbal information while understanding and empathy build is nothing short of miraculous. Both people grow and evolve. Neither is left the same as they were before the encounter. The footings have transformed into a full foundation for a relationship.
Be intentional about your communication. The words you use are important. The WAY you say them is too. Be clear. Do everything you can to be understood correctly. Conversely, listen attentively. Be present, and actively try to see things from other’s perspective. Do not simply wait to speak; help people be heard. Then use that connection to build sincere relationships with people. Lay the footings carefully since they will be supporting the communication as the foundation for relationship.
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