In a couple what is expressed with words is just as important as what body language expresses. Self-knowledge is key to delivering the right message.
Medical Advisors Psychologist Practitioner at the Coomeva Private Healthcare, Consuelo Vivas Perdomo
Psychologist, Adriana Maria Mora
Trainer in Positive Discipline, Astrid Villa
Let’s go to this scene after a couple has gotten into an argument: “Love, can we talk?” “Everything is all right, do not worry,” is the answer. But deep down one of them knows that the contrary is happening because the look in the eyes was enough to understand that something was still wrong with regard to the incident. The other person wanted to “conceal” something. This is a very common situation because in a couple communication especially the non-verbal one is not an easy task but it can be learned.
Attention to this data: body or non-verbal language that consists in the physical disposition and expression, gestures, tone and volume of the voice represent 93% of communication. What is said, on the other hand, represents only 7%. Surely after reading these numbers many of you stopped to think how much one thing matches up with the other when you speak to your partner or even after an argument.
For Astrid Villa, trainer in positive discipline, we are what we do beyond what we say we are. In order to achieve coherence between verbal and non-verbal communication the experts talks about self-knowledge. “We need to be aware of ourselves, who we are, what we like, what we want, what our skills are, our knowledge and also our limitations, In addition, we must act in accordance with our principles and values.”
Connecting what we say with what the body says is a reflection of our personal control. Gesture, gaze, and movements are, at times, such very unconscious issues that they end up betraying our capacity for self-control.
“External communication is a reflection of internal communication. That is why it is necessary first to have a good communication with oneself. I need to know what makes me get out of control, for example. We are so little in control of ourselves that sometimes we unconsciously reveal ourselves. It is necessary that we perform processes of greater control of our emotions and that does not mean repression because it has been quite damaging when they have told us in the family about keeping our feelings to ourselves,” explains Psychologist Adriana Maria Mora Londoño.
The Family is Master
The family determines everything. Our formation and the example we receive from the family molds the way in which a person relates to the world and with oneself either positively or negatively. The specialist in positive disciplines explains that the better the relations constructed at home the better quality the relations created outside the family will be. “Thus, if the ties established at home were secure, where there was a clear image of oneself and there is self-esteem, then surely one will establish relations based on trust because the world is conceived as a safe place in which to relate to ones peers: siblings, friends from school and in the relations that at a future time they will establish with their couples.”
In this sense it is important to make clear that the capacity each one has to express himself is also derived from what one learned in the family. That is why, attention must be called to that rooted belief inside the families that one must not brand emotions, or speak of them or express them. “There is a blockade in the family in this sense and it is necessary to know that emotions are not sacred and that when we “swallow” them we get ill. We must unweed these emotional patterns,” emphasizes Mora.
Silence is an ally
It often happens that in the midst of the fear of silence and the stigmatization it bears we forget to listen to our couple and we dedicate to only hearing. For Consuelo Vivas Perdomo a Clinical Psychologist listening entails genuine interest for knowing what the other person is thinking. “It is not easy to practice this way of acting, because it is more frequent to be attentive to judging the message or to preparing what you are going to say. Listening means to capture the meaning of words that you pronounce; comprehending the message, the ideas. It means understanding the whole situation. Empathic listening goes even beyond that: it is a heart to heart relation between the two.”
She also adds that show of interest can be verbal or non-verbal and that this is part of the arsenal of skills of a good interpersonal communication. Keeping eye contact with the person speaking, a smile, a nod, “All these subtle signals of body language will transmit an unconscious meaning of our attention and interest towards the person who is speaking.”
When there is silence there is also communication and it is necessary to learn to interpret it. The specialists point to the fact that in silence there is stillness, peace and a pause to reestablish internal communication to then return to an encounter with the other person, and with greater clarity. One must listen to the silence sometimes one uses words as a mechanism to block feelings. In this case, “As we speak we cut the bridge of our sensations. When we remain silent it is easier to have greater bodily awareness, to know what our sensations are and what is happening within ourselves. In that measure I authorize myself to find myself so that I can later do the same with the other person in a healthy way. What happens is that due to a strong need for control, we wish to know everything that is going on with the other person, what he thinks or feels and if we do not achieve this we lose our calm. We must understand that silence is necessary,” is the conclusion Mora arrives at.
Guidelines for knowing oneself
- To establish a clear relation with our internal couple, because human beings have a dual nature consisting of both a masculine and a feminine dimension.
- Being responsible for one’s own emotions; do not expect the other person to do that.
- Allot space for silence and respect the other person’s need for silence.
In a couple it is convenient to update on assumptions
Communication allows confrontation and validation of hypotheses. It is not bad to generate assumptions and expectations both the ones one has and the ones the other person has. What is not healthy is to think that they are true without taking the other person into account. “Communication is much more assertive in so far as it is clear to me what I think and that this is coherent with what I feel and manage to express in correct manner. In that same guise I find coherence in the message I receive from others. When there is some difference between what is expressed and what one thinks or feels, the integrity of the message is broken and even trust is hard to come by,” says Astrid Villa, trainer in positive discipline.
See also: Is couples therapy the answer?