Everyone always goes on about how important communication is in relationships of all kinds. There is a whole industry of books and seminars and special classes all based on how to communicate properly and effectively in a wide variety of situations. Communication in BDSM and alternative style relationships is not just important; it can mean the difference between a rewarding relationship and abuse. Given the type of power play that can occur and the level of trust required, without strong communication, play could edge or cross into non-consenting area and break ethical boundaries. Being able to communicate effectively, openly, and honestly with your partner about your boundaries, concerns, emotions, and state of being is a requirement for a successful alternative lifestyle relationship. This communication is equally, if not more important, from the submissive as from the dominant.
When do we worry the most about having good communications skills? Typically when things are not going well and we have to talk through a difficult situation. Building a strong base and habit of forthright dialogue with your partner can help you to avoid some problems before they become an issue and will also give you plenty of practice when difficult situations do arise. It is important to remember that just because a conversation has the potential to be sensitive does not mean it has to be or that it should be avoided.
Effective communication is not only about understanding the words and syntax of a statement but also understanding the emotion behind those words (Robinson, Segal, & Segal, 2012). Communication is a two way street and is often considered successful when the sender as well as the receiver understand the same information (Essential Life Skills). It is important to involve the receiver in the process of the conversation. By enlisting them to be active in the conversation, you are giving them a stake in the outcome therefore placing them more at ease and more likely to engage in real dialogue about the problem at hand (Fisher & Ury, 1991).
Engaging in productive communication is also about more than just the verbal portion of the conversation but also the non-verbal cues. Every day we use our bodies to impart nuances of our mood and meaning to conversation. Research has shown that there are some universal facial expressions that everyone recognizes cross-culturally (Ekman & Keltner, 2009). As children we learn some of the basics of these cues as well as we begin to learn how to control our own. These aspects can serve to enhance an important exchange when used consciously and appropriately.
The hard thing about being an effective communicator is that the meanings of words and phrases evolve over time and use. A phrase that was once used to express condolences, such as "I'm sorry" does not have the same meaning to many people due to its overuse and association with sarcasm (Gallagher, 2009). This means that the effective communicator must avoid the pitfalls of common phrases as many of them have different interpretations and can set someone on edge in a difficult conversation. But there is a lot more to being a good talker than speaking. Explore the rest of these topics to strengthen your conversational skills.
Keeping that spark of romance and good feelings alive in a relationship is complicated but having a strong foundation of open communication is definitely part of that piece. Maintaining a long time connection with your partner requires hard work and being willing to listen and converse about your wants, desires, and needs.
These books have been read and reviewed by Keeping it Kinky and we recommend them as resources in the area of communication
Ekman, P., & Keltner, D. (2009). Universal Facial Expressions of Emotion: An Old Controversy and New Findings. Retrieved 09 19, 2012, from Nonverbal Communication: http://www.paulekman.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/Universal-Facial-Expressions-Of-Emotion.pdf
Essential Life Skills. (n.d.). Good Communication Skills - Key to Any Success. Retrieved 09 19, 2012, from Essential Life Skills: http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/goodcommunicationskills.html
Fisher, R., & Ury, W. (1991). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In. London: Penguin Books.
Gallagher, R. (2009). How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work. New York: Amacon.
Robinson, L., Segal, J., & Segal, R. (2012). Effective Communication. Retrieved 09 19, 2012, from HelpGuide.org: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/effective_communication_skills.htm
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