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The Art Of Communication

Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

David and his wife had been married for 15 years and believed they knew what each other really wanted. While attending a marriage seminar on communication, David and his wife listened to the instructor declare, “It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.”

Then he asked the men in the crowd, “Can you describe your wife’s favorite flower?”

David leaned over, touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered, “Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn’t it?”

Sometimes we think that someone is saying one thing, when actually, their message is completely different. Good communication, in all spheres of life, necessitates that you pick up on each other’s subtle signs and understand the feelings and emotions behind the words.

A few years ago when I was looking to buy a new car, I spotted a sign at a local car dealer that read “Brand New Sedans at Low, Low Prices.” Enthusiastically, I walked in expecting to find the ride of my life. Within seconds, a blue sedan caught my eye, and I quickly hopped into the driver’s seat, started playing with the console, and sunk into the extra-plush leather seat. I knew right away that I found the car I was looking for. At least that’s what I thought.

Suddenly, a car salesman woke me out of my almost dream-like state.

“These cars are not for sale. I think you made a mistake,” the assertive salesman said to me.

“Mistake?” I replied, “I couldn’t be happier.”

“Are you sure you don’t want something else? How about a larger minivan with a CD player — something your kids would love,” he asked.

“No thanks. We already have a Town and Country. I’m looking for something for myself.”

“Yourself? I guess you think one van is enough for the family.”

“Of course ONE is enough. Can’t you just show me a similar sedan to the one I want?”

“Well, we have smaller sedans, but they are pre-owned.”

“Pre-owned. You mean secondhand, right?”

“That’s what we call it in our industry, ‘pre-owned.’”

“But I want a new car!”

“Okay, I get it. You want a new sedan.”

“That’s right. Do you have any?”

“Well, we used to. Now we have compacts and minivans. Are you sure we can’t find a real deal for you?”

Like most unsuspecting car buyers, I walked out disappointed and downright annoyed that I was saying one thing and he was hearing another. In fact, we were speaking two totally different languages. He assumed that he knew what I wanted, but in truth, he was only interested in fulfilling his own narrow agenda.

Couples often fall into this same pattern – speaking without first listening to what their spouse is trying to tell them. They make the mistake of assuming one thing when their spouse’s mind is moving in the opposite direction.

First Aid Relationship Tips

So what are the ways couples can improve their ability to communicate effectively in marriage and create a language of love? According to the latest theories in communication, the most important areas of focus are:

* Learning how to actively listen
* Mirroring your spouse’s feelings
* Empathizing
* Hearing feelings behind words
* Reducing criticism
* Learning to say that you’re sorry

Active Listening

One of the most essentials techniques in improving communication is active listening. Active listening, as opposed to simple listening, is when couples pay close attention to each other’s words and feelings. Instead of assuming that they automatically catch their message, they go the extra mile and listen carefully to their spouse’s “inner” voice. Active listening encourages people to download their thoughts to someone who will listen without being judgmental.

Imagine how good it feels when someone who matters to you listens. We each feel comforted when a good friend, teacher or spouse spends a few minutes listening to us. That’s because good communicators perceive communication as a two-way street, where listening is as equally important as is speaking one’s mind. Unfortunately, many people believe that the purpose of communication is to simply get another person to do what they want. From their perspective, communication is merely a way to achieve certain goals, such as acquiring possessions, making money, attaining valuable services, and so on. Yet, in marriage, communicating is about more than just achieving an end; it’s a means to achieving a closer and more intimate relationship.

About the Author: Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, Marriage and Family Therapy, is an expert in marriage counseling, pre-marital education, and helping teens in crisis with offices in Flatbush, Cedarhurst, and Crown Heights. He is a certified PAIRS instructor, and trained as a Level 1, Emotionally Focused Therapist at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and is a member of AASECT. He is the author of At Risk – Never Beyond Reach and First Aid For Jewish Marriages. To watch his free videos on marriage and parenting and for appointments visit: www.JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723


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Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which a child becomes fearful and nervous when away from home or separated from a loved one – usually a parent or other caregiver – to whom the child is attached.

Schonbuch-Rabbi-Daniel

I try to focus on the parents in a way that is not often addressed. As soon as the child gets anxious, the parent gets anxious;

Most people are not aware that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).

Parental conflict affects children in varying ways, depending on their age. For example, teenagers around the age of fifteen or sixteen are most likely to involve themselves in their parents’ battles. Younger children may keep their feelings hidden inside and may only show signs of depression in late childhood or early adolescence.

When parents come to talk to me about a troubled child or teenager, I often find it helpful to explore whether or not their marriage is causing their teenager to be at risk.

Active listening is only one part of the marriage equation; learning what to say and what not to say is the other half. And, it’s not just about expressing your feelings, but doing it in a way that avoids hurting the other person.

Control may be the most destructive force influencing a marriage. Let me illustrate this point with the following story. About two years ago a woman named Bracha, 47, came to speak to me about her husband’s controlling behavior. This is how she described her precarious situation:

Controlling behavior may be the number one reason that your marriage needs first aid.

If you are unfamiliar with the topic of control, it’s no surprise. Most people are unaware that control is a major issue for counselors, therapists and psychologists-at-large.

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