We have, in our lives, many types of relationships. There are personal, private, public and work relationships. Many are vanilla, some are BDSM, and others are kink or fetish related. Be it your partner, family, friends, boss, co-worker, acquaintance, Dominant, submissive, slave, etc., the key to the success of any relationship is good communications.
So what are the components of good communication? I think there are several.
1) Effective communication requires the interaction of two or more parties.
2) One must be willing to hear.
3) Good communications are clear, concise, open and honest.
4) One must be willing to be objective or be able to see things from the others perspective.
5) If you don't understand something, it is imperative that you seek immediate clarification.
Two Way Communications
Effective communication is a two way street, a combination of being the communicator and the recipient of the communication.
One could argue that in some cases there is no need to have two way communications. For example, between boss and employee, parent and child, Dominant and submissive, one could say one way communication is good enough.
In all situations, unless there has to be some acknowledgement, be it verbal, written, body language or whatever, from the person on the receiving end that the communication was understood. If this component is missing, then the communication was not effective.
The onus to ensure that there is effective communication is with both parties. Excuses like s/he didn't listen to me or I didn't understand what s/he was saying are not acceptable. They are simply attempts to absolve yourself of any responsibility for the poor communication.
Listening and Hearing
Listening just isn't good enough. For when one actually hears, there is a sense of understanding or comprehension of what is said. Too many times, someone will say that they are listening to you but you know they are not hearing you. This is easy to test, if you are in doubt have them repeat back to you what you have said, or even better, have them explain it to you in their own words.
Being Clear and Concise
This means that you don't cloud the issue with irrelevant information. How many of you have been told, just get to the point. I certainly have on many occasions.
The more you add clarifications, explanations, talk around the point, etc., the less effective your communications are going to be. Why, because it makes it hard for the listener to follow and understand you.
Being Open and Honest
This is a big factor in my opinion because I believe it has a direct relationship with trust and respect. If you attempt to hide things or not tell the truth about things that have a direct impact on others, you are simply playing with the trust and respect they may have for you. It is most likely that you will be found out and quite simply all the trust and respect you may have had will likely no longer be there.
Delaying, ignoring or putting off discussing things of importance also may have a negative impact on trust and respect. There are certainly cases where external factors play a part and things can't be discussed fully. However, it if it is simply a case where you don't want to deal with something in a timely manner, you may not lose the other person's trust and respect altogether but you certainly won't gain any ground either. What in effect you are communicating to the other person is that their needs, wants and desires aren't important to you.
Trust and Respect
Trust: A firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person.
Respect: A feeling of high regard, honour or esteem.
Trust and respect are two very important characteristics in any relationship. In the beginning, people can have a certain sense of trust and respect for another, just based on good faith. However, for the most part, trust and respect have to be earned and this can be a long process.
The factors that seem to effect trust and respect directly are; how, what, where and why, one acts and communicates. Certainly ones' actions determine the level of trust and respect much more than what one says. The old saying of "talk is cheap, actions say everything", seems to hold very true.
So what part does effective communications play in the earning of trust and respect? It can set the stage, be the building blocks or basis of trust and respect. It can provide the clues on how one earns another's trust and respect. It can clarify actions and or inactions, and thus provide an explanation for something that may otherwise be interpreted in a wrong manner.
We all have our own sense or expectations of what honesty, integrity, reliability, and justice mean to us. This can differ dramatically from one individual to another. We cannot rely on our own perceptions or expectations to determine what another believes. The only way to find out is through effective communications.
Ineffective communications can also destroy or damage ones trust and respect. Once this is done, it can be very difficult to recover from it no matter what you say or do.
Privacy versus Secrecy
Everyone to one degree or another values their privacy. However, it is a fine line between privacy and secrecy. So when does privacy move into the realm of secrecy? In my opinion, secrecy occurs when something that directly impacts a relationship or another is not being communicated.
One may wish to seek the opinion or have input from another in private and there is nothing wrong with that. However, to withhold important information or not discuss areas of concern with the effected party is just plain secrecy.
If you have effective communications within the relationship, you should know what needs to be communicated and what doesn't, what the areas of concern and importance are to the other person. Here again, don't rely on your own sense of privacy and secrecy, because it really doesn't matter what is applicable to you, it only matters what the other person believes.
It is often very difficult to be objective in our communications. What I mean by objectivity is the ability to see things in the true light or from all perspectives. There are a lot of factors that can cloud objectivity such as our emotions, our perceptions, our patience, our personal bias or paradigms, our ability to listen and hear, etc.
The more we can see and recognize things from all others perspective, the more objective and the better our communications will be. Conversely, the better we communicate, the more objective we will be.
When we act or communicate, solely based our emotions this can be deadly to effective communications. Our emotions can block all sense of objectivity, reality, logic, etc. Things can be communicated that we really don't mean or at least to the degree and emphasis that we have placed on them at the time.
To recover from something said in anger, frustration, etc. can be very difficult if not impossible to recover from. However, if the other person realizes that you are in a highly charged and emotional state, there is a good chance that they will take that into consideration. On the other hand, one has to recognize that many people will react based on their own emotions.
If you are dealing with someone that is communicating in a highly emotional fashion, remember that things are going to be distorted. However, you are making a mistake if you just write off what they are saying. There is a reason that they are reacting that way which you may or may not be able to determine until they calm down. Also don't assume that you know the why's, solely based on their ramblings.
What an emotional person may say, might not have any apparent logical connection to the real problem. Also, remember that the highly charged person may not know what the problem is. They are just in reaction mode.
If we treat or just see the symptoms, we may never recognize the problem and therefore any efforts we put into it are basically a waste of time. Only through effective communications can we determine the core or root of the problem.
Assumptions and Perceptions
The old saying that when you make an assumption you can make an ass out of you and me (ass-u-me) is very true. The same can hold true of perceptions. An unverified perception is just as dangerous as an assumption. It such cases there is very little difference between an assumption and a perception.
Neither are bad by themselves, it is when we act on them that disaster can strike. Acting or reacting without full knowledge of the object or situation, the motivations, intentions, beliefs, needs, feelings, etc of another is just inviting trouble.
If it is something relatively unimportant to the other individual, there isn't likely going to be much of a big deal. However if it is related to something fairly important, it can be a huge deal.
Much as we may not agree with the perceptions of another, remember they are real to the person and therefore should be taken into consideration before we act. How do we know what the person's perceptions are? Effective communications is the only way to find out.
Making/Taking Things Personally
One of the most efficient ways to kill effective communications and create a hostile environment is to attack a person's credibility, reputation, personal character, etc. In other words, don't flame anyone. On the other hand, don't take something personal that wasn't intended to be a personal attack on you. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell or know whether a comment was meant to be a personal slam or not, but unless it is obviously clear don't over react. In communicating, try to avoid phrasing things in such a manner that it creates doubt in the other party's mind. If you are going to make a statement, phrase it with "in my opinion" or "I heard" or "I was led to believe", don't attack the other person by saying something like "your full of shit" or "your wrong". Who knows they maybe right and you may be wrong.
Another way to successfully avoid making things personal is to phrase things as a question. May I ask your reasoning behind that, what is your opinion on….., have you read or seen such and such, what do you think of……, etc. Granted some people may take offense at a particular line of questioning and if they do you need to take a different approach.
Using questions, in my opinion, is an effective method of communicating between a Dominant and a submissive. This method will convey your thoughts, but not attack the authority and decision making power of the Dominant. You are simply asking for an opinion, direction or a decision.
Patience and Tolerance
Patience and tolerance of another's needs, wants, desires, beliefs, opinions etc. is another key to effective communications. You may not agree with another person's beliefs or opinions, but recognize that they are very valid for that individual and that particular point in time. Creating and adversarial environment accomplishes nothing positive but can be very damaging and cause a lot of hurt and mental anguish.
That's where the patience part comes in. Take the time to get to know the other person, their needs, wants, desires and reasons behind their opinions and beliefs. If you do that, who knows you may learn something that you haven't considered before. The end result could be a change in beliefs and opinions in either one of you or both. Often the answer is somewhere in the middle.
Having patience and tolerance also means, don't make a big deal out of something that is or should be trivial or minor on the life scale. Know when to take a stand and when it would be wise to just back off. If you make a big deal about the small things, they may take on a higher sense of importance then they should and those things that are really important may never be addressed.
We can often get upset over something relatively minor or unimportant. It takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge and to be angry or upset. That energy could be channeled to something positive rather than something negative, which basically accomplishes nothing. If you made a mistake admit it, if the other person says they made a mistake and apologizes, accept that and move on.
Too often something that should be relatively minor gets blow out of proportion and what should be a small glitch in a relationship turns into a major deal. Revenge can be sweet but is the short term gain worth the long term loss?
Understandably some things will not be able to be worked out. You have a choice though, minimum or maximum damage. How you handle the matter will determine the outcome.
The Art of Negotiating
There is truly an art to effective negotiations. The concept is to provide a win-win result where everyone benefits. If you go into negotiations with the mindset that you are going to get everything you want, you are likely not going to get anything. The key here is compromise, it is a give and take scenario.
Make a list of what you feel strongly, so-so, and don't really care about. In theory, you now know what you won't compromise on, what you are willing to compromise a little on and what you are willing to let the other person have their way about. However, remain open minded, one never knows when the other party may bring up a point or some reason that will make you rethink and modify your list.
Everyone likes to feel that they have got their way or can take ownership of something. The idea is to come to a solution that is acceptable to all. You may not be overly thrilled about it, but you can live with it.
Much of what is called negotiations in the BDSM world are not really negotiations at all. What it really consists of is an open and honest discussion or communication, by two equals, of needs, wants, limits, expectations, etc. It is the defining of the parameters of the relationship and finding out if an agreement can be worked out.
Certainly there maybe some compromise, but the higher the level of Dominance/submission one seeks the less room there is for negotiation and compromise. This doesn't mean that if you are seeking a Master/sub/slave relationship that you don't communicate your needs, wants, limits, expectations, etc. It is extremely important that both parties be totally aware of those things in order to make an informed decision on the potential relationship. Surprises are not a good thing and can be very mentally and emotionally damaging.
None of us is perfect; we are all going to make mistakes in our communications. Hopefully though if we understand what makes up effective communications we can keep these to a minimum. How we handle ourselves will determine how others perceive us. We all have an opportunity to learn and improve our performance, what we make of it will depend on the effort we put into it and sometimes our willingness to change.
Just remember we are all individuals with different needs, wants, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, triggers, motivators, personalities, etc. What works for one, may not work with another and in fact, may have the totally opposite reaction.