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  • Writer's picturedrmollybarrow

Change Talk: How to Make Change in Your Relationship

Updated: Oct 5, 2019

Communication is an essential art for media personalities, business interactions and

See, hear, feel, smell, touch words.

interpersonal relationships. Here are three useful communication tricks that may help to eliminate misunderstandings and miscommunications.

1. Match the Sense People reveal their dominant sense by their choice of words. An individual’s choice of words reflects his or her sensory take on the world. People communicate with words that are visual: “I see what you are saying,” auditory: “I hear what you mean,” or feeling: “You give me goose bumps.” Naturally, people like to talk more with someone who “gets” them and understands their position.

If you want to take communication to a more intimate level, try to mimic their world with your word choices. For instance, perhaps you notice that your partner says, “I saw this coming.” You would know you had a “visual-communicator,” who expresses themselves by visual terms - anything to do with eyes, vision, colors, movement. If you tailor your response to him or her in matching visual words, you will put them at ease and lower their defenses.

However, if you respond, “Yeah, I hear what you are saying,” you are less likely to facilitate a flow. A visual person could be confused for a moment by any response that is non-visual. As they puzzle over the word “hear,” the silence will be deafening and you communication more awkward. You may have had stellar intentions to keep them talking, but your choice of words shut their thinking down.

Instead, next time you have a visual-communicator on the line, switch to talking in matching visual terms and he or she will think that you are their long lost pal. Talking to an auditor-communicator works the same way. Match him or her with words like “hear, listening, sound or speak” and they will love you. Feeling communicators are more difficult to detect, but they will clue you in with expressions that have a tactile tone such as “I feel,” “How touching” or “It gave me shivers.”

Practice on your family, especially if you have a teenager. Discover if you have a visual-communication son, auditory-communication daughter or a feeling-communication spouse. Ask your best friend to tell you what you are. You may find all your communication experiences will benefit from talking with the right sense.

2. Sex Matters Are you speaking with a male or female? Recent studies theorize women’s brains are different, both biologically and operationally from men’s brains. These differences show up in early childhood language development and in the physical size of areas of the brain. You can use these differences carefully to increase the rapport during communication with others. For example in one study, men felt satisfied talking to other men for about ten minutes of the hour, touching on only a few subjects. In the same study, women filled fifty minutes of the hour with over ten subjects. Men frequently enjoy finding a quick solution and often think in more linear ways. A woman can circle the subject for some time before making her point, while methodically considering minute details and new possibilities.

Interrupting a woman’s circular trip could be dangerous. Women may react negatively to anyone who cuts them off mid trip, even when offered a rather fine solution. An interruption often involves restarting the entire lengthy feminine thought process over again, causing macho males to squirm in agony. If you are in a group or business meeting that is mostly male, they may be relieved with your premature disconnect of her apparent rambling.

However, if your audience is predominantly female, other women want to ride along on that discovery trip with your female speaker. If you cut her off mid way the feminine audience is going to feel commiserate frustration and possibly shut you off. Allow your female communicators a little extra time to make their point. You might be surprised at the creative wisdom that eventually surfaces.

3. Sounds from your Stomach Urgency, excitement and rapid fire retorts are all positive parts of a persona, but the human ear can pick up fear and stress behind the cleverest repartee. Tightened vocal chords change the pitch and tone of the speaking voice and our minds subliminally interpret that as a sign of weakness and fear in an opponent. With increasing stress and work demands, couples must be alert to subtle cues when discussing emotionally loaded subjects. Your voice may sound angry and stressed beyond your intentions. When we feel threatened, our breathing becomes less regular and shallower. When you forget to breathe, your body triggers numerous physical reactions, most of which you probably want to avoid while having a discussion with your partner. One of them is tension in your throat. Breath control can start or stop fear reactions. At every opportunity, swell your belly and sides with deep breaths through your mouth, one after another without pausing. Ask your partner to do the same. Your bodies will visually relax, shoulders will settle down and your posture will realign. Best of all, your voices will recover a sweet music in place of knotted noise and subsequent negative reactions. The discussion will be on safer ground and more likely to be heard.

Dr. Molly Barrow earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor and educator in private practice. She is the author of the Malia & Teacup children's books, Matchlines for Singles; and Step Parenting Essentials. Dr. Barrow is a relationship expert helping individuals, couples, families, and co-workers improve their relationships and communication skills. Her commentary and advice column, quotes, radio show, interviews, and articles are enjoyed worldwide in O Magazine, Psychology Today,, Parenting, Morning Blend,, Progressive Radio Network and Women’s Health.

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