Ten years ago if you asked me what the four C’s were I would’ve responded with an in-depth look into Carat, Cut, Clarity, and Color—all things a girl who’s about to get engaged would know about. It’s too bad that jeweler’s don’t include a pamphlet on the four C’s of communication as well, considering once you’re married as wonderful as it is to have a sparkling diamond on your finger it will do little to help one navigate the very intense reality of sharing your life so intimately with another individual.
The beauty of this approach to handling communication is that it applies to all relationships not just one between a husband and wife. If you’re finding yourself at a crossroad with a friend, having trouble being open with your teenage children, or hitting a wall with aging parents—whatever your situation may be—taking the following direction into account when communicating will help alleviate any troubles or confusion you may be facing.
Control – There are times when control is good, when control is necessary, and when control is outright paramount to survival—like driving a car, saying no to drugs, and not eating a pint of ice cream every day. In exact contrast one needs to be able to relinquish control when trying to achieve healthy and open communication in a relationship that is struggling. Oftentimes we say to ourselves, “If only they would listen to me…” but in that very statement we fail to see that our control or our attempt at control prevents us from listening to others. We must first open ourselves to listening, really listening before expecting the opposite.
Correction – Have you ever written a simple Facebook status before to only get corrected on your improper use of grammar? I know the grammar Nazis mean well, but no matter how nice they are about it, it never feels good to be corrected. I’m not saying we shouldn’t know how to accept correction, but as adults who’ve outgrown the “crayons on the wall” phase of life there is a time and a place where correction can be received and when correction is all out ignored. Correction requires an establishment of safety and trust and even then it’s only beneficial when it has purpose. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are correcting someone because it is hidden behind us trying to control the conversation. We push our point of view, our opinion, our approach so hard that the other person only hears that they are wrong. If you can learn to bite your tongue and prevent unfruitful correction you will gain the respect and in turn the listening ear of the other half of the conversation.
Compromise – When you can let go of controlling the conversation, and refrain from correction (no matter how much you may think or may actually be right) then you are now capable of compromise. You cannot show a true willingness to compromise without putting the first two C’s in practice. Compromise is about understanding the other half of the conversation, actively listening, openly discussing, and meeting the other person in the middle. Sometimes that middle veers more left and then other times more right. True compromise encourages balance and balance creates harmony.
Consistency – Sometimes absence can make the heart grow fonder, but more often it creates confusion, questions, and a lack of transparency. If you’re in a relationship that is suffering from poor communication and this relationship is important to you then consistent communication is necessary in retaining the harmony from your previous compromise. I’ve come to realize that when my husband and I have overly busy days that pile up we begin to fight. The fighting might be triggered from small insignificant situations like leaving dirty dishes in the sink, but the root of it always stems from not communicating. Whether the relationship in question is someone you live with or someone distant consistency is the only way to feel a continuous connection and retain healthy, ongoing communication.
Most things in life that cause stress can’t be changed, at least not changed in an instant—money, health problems, unexpected loss. But communication is something you can begin working on changing today. Every time you find yourself facing tension in a valued relationship ask yourself the following:
1. Have I relinquished Control?
2. Am I refraining from Correction?
3. Am I willing to Compromise?
4. Am I putting forth an effort to create Consistency?
Let’s take it even one step further and try and find an area of your life that you can change now. Do you have a friend you haven’t spoken to because of an unwillingness to forgive?
Relinquish control and write them a letter. Forgive them. Don’t worry about their response. It’s not about them as much as it is about you.
Are you in conflict with your spouse over something you cannot agree on? Try being the one to compromise if you’re normally not. Meet him on his terms and see the response.
Are you experiencing distance from a loved one, maybe your mother or a grandmother because of a lack of continuous communication? Pick up the phone. Write an email. No matter your approach be sure to make it consistent. Change can only happen when we fully commit.
Remember communicating is about trust. Be open and be honest. The people you love and value are worth it.