Dear Sarah and Tom,
At the outset, let me congratulate you both for taking the decision to get married and also wish you the very best. As you know, marriage is a relationship which is meant to last a lifetime. So, both of you should do those small things which reinforce your love and care for each other. This will strengthen your belief that you are made for each other and, many years into a happy married life, you will not have any occasion to regret your decision. The fact that you care to improve your interpersonal relationship itself shows your commitment. Let us now discuss the various aspects of interpersonal communication.
Barriers to effective interpersonal interactions
Barriers to communication occur when the meanings of the words you say to each other do not meet. What you say and what your partner understands may be two different things. You may be able to talk, but just talking is not communicating (Krishnan & Margaret, n.d.). The confusion in communication is well stated by H. Norman Wright thus: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” (as cited in Krishnan & Margaret). You must also understand that a major part of the communication is non-verbal. Body language and posture, facial expression, gestures, eye movement, distance, tone of voice, appearance and touch are all integral part of your communication and you are knowingly or unknowingly using many of these in your daily interactions. So if you smile when you are least inclined, your spouse can easily find that out by observing your body language. If you truly empathize with your spouse and are concerned about his/her feelings, your body language and gestures will definitely convey the right message.
Many times it happens that we are not confident of what we want to say and we are afraid of being misunderstood or ridiculed. We also hide our true emotions and strive hard to measure up to imaginary standards. We end up saying things which are generally acceptable to all, though it may be far from truth. Other barriers to communication, which normally encountered are lack of language skills, preconceived notions about the response of the audience and a fear about the discontinuance of the relationship.
Self concept: development and maintenance
Our self-concept is shaped by the way see ourselves, the way others see us and the expectations of the society as to what we should be (Thomas, 2014). Both of you may have a strong concept of yourself and how your partner should see you. However, you must be able to be flexible in assuming roles, though not at the cost of your individuality. Tom, I would advise you not to be misled by nineteenth century concept of a wife who “must consider all these little arts of pleasing, chiefly valuable on his account—as means of perpetuating her attractions, and giving permanence to his affections” (Penny & Livingston, 2003.). You must realize that the conventional roles of husband and wife have undergone drastic changes, with women assuming roles which were considered the prerogative of men. Women are controlling corporations and men are waiting with a smile at home to greet them. You should not expect to agree with each always. However, you have to take decisions which are beneficial to both. Even when there is a disagreement, you must whole-heartedly support your partner, when the decision is finalized. This way you are showing how much you care for your partner.
When you have a disagreement, never try to attack each other’s image of self. The self image is a very important factor of your personality and by trying to puncture it you may damage your relationship badly. In fact, you should complement each other frequently on your positive personality traits to boost your self-concept. You have to enhance each other’s personalities for improving your collective worth as members of the society. Your respect and standing in the society will depend on how close you get to becoming role models. Monetary worth is secondary, as long as you can manage your affairs within your budget with mutual understanding. Your spouse is the best person to tell you the positive and negative traits of your personality. So don’t cut off this source of reliable opinion.
Emotional intelligence and effective interpersonal communication
Knowing when and where to express emotions and also how much of it is appropriate for the situation constitute emotional intelligence. Both of you must have keen awareness about your emotions and also improve your ability to identify, assess, and manage them (Thomas, 2014). You must also be consistent in expressing your emotions, so that your partner will know what to expect. Your life experiences, your attitudes towards them and how positively you can take them will have a bearing on your emotions. If you are both emotionally stable, you can be supportive to each other in times of hardships. “By practicing replacing negative thoughts with positive ones your relationship will be a much happier and joyful union” (Thomas, 2014). If either of you is in a bad mood, it is better not to respond and add to the irritation. You tend to say words which you never really mean, when you are angry. The habit of expressing gratitude for even small things, praising each other for the simplest achievements and expressing your admiration for each other at every opportunity, can help to keep your relationship intact.
Levels of self-disclosure in relationships
In the course of building your relationship, you must have revealed a lot of each other’s private information. Certainly, you may not have revealed everything on your first date. But as your relationship progresses, new knowledge about yourself is revealed to your partner. The depth of disclosure refers to how sensitive or personal the information is and the breadth denotes the various topics discussed. This social penetration can be likened to peeling of an onion, layer by layer. As the relationship becomes more and more intimate, more and more deeper aspects are revealed, just as if the inner layers of the onion are getting peeled, leaving more of the core bare (“A Primer in Communication Studies”, n.d., p.366.). We have to decide how much we have to reveal of ourselves to be open and how much we have to hide to maintain our privacy. It involves a balancing act. You will also be prudent not to discuss about your past dates, and weaknesses you have already gotten rid of. Your partner may not be able to appreciate your sexual exploits and other heroic deeds of the past. All said and done, it is better your spouse knows any hidden secret about you straight from you, rather than from an outsider. Sometimes, it is advisable not to discuss your surprise plans before something tangible happens, to avoid unnecessary disappointments.
Strategies for managing interpersonal conflicts
You should realize that conflicts are common between people who live together and share responsibilities. While interacting with parents at home, roommates in hostels or coworkers in office, we have to make adjustments, so that the sentiments of all concerned are appeased and goals of all met. Conflict may vary from cold shoulder to hot verbal exchanges. Conflicts may have many underlying causes. Understanding them will help you deal with them more effectively. When there is lack of proper communication, we tend to fill the gaps with negative thoughts and we discredit people for imagined wrong doings. Differences in value system can lead to conflicts regarding what is right and what is wrong in a given context. Lack of clear leadership, lack of understanding of the roles, low productivity, sudden changes in life style and past unresolved conflicts can also lead to conflicts (Lingren, n.d.).
The question of conflict resolution arises only because we value the relationship and would like continue with it. If we do not care for the other person, we can ignore and forget him, rather than waste time trying to resolve the conflict. So you should avoid exaggerated show of emotions which will hinder the process of resolution of conflict. The most common strategies that people choose from for resolving conflict are:
Forcing the other person to accept own decision using power or authority. This will result in compliance without commitment and cause resentment
Accommodating the other’s point of view to satisfy him, while sacrificing own concerns.
Doing nothing about the conflict and neglecting it.
Making compromises, so that part of requirements of both parties are satisfied.
Collaborating with each other so as to arrive at a solution which benefits both parties to the extent possible.
Collaborating strategy is the best strategy which provides for a win-win situation. But collaboration requires considerable time, energy and patience on the part of the concerned. So depending on the nature and urgency of the situation, you may have to use other alternatives. To understand interpersonal conflict situations properly and to apply the appropriate strategy, you need to have good conflict management skills.
There are certain guidelines to be followed when trying to resolve conflicts. Use prime time to discuss the problems; not when you are tired or angry. Try not to defeat your partner. The purpose of dialogue is to understand each other’s point of view better. It is not advisable to hurl word bombs at each other, which are likely to close negotiations for ever. Also you should confine arguments to specific behavior and should not denounce your partner personally. You should not corner your partner, so that he/she has to accept defeat. Rather, some “face-saving” loop holes may be left open.
Strategies for peace
Developing good listening skills is one of the best ways to maintain peace. Sometimes, many of the negative emotions can be got rid of by just pouring out your mind. If you can be a silent receptacle for the outburst of emotions, the problem may become insignificant and die out naturally. Another advantage of listening well is that you get to know the problem well and can try to work out a good solution. Also, your spouse is thankful that you have listened patiently.
Another important thing to remember is the choice of words. Using abusive language and condemning each other is not a good way of maintaining relationship. Swear words and insults will never be forgotten and even after the conflict is resolved, these may come up repeatedly during bad mood attacks and contribute to additional rounds of conflict. Respecting each other’s individuality and freedom will help prevent conflicts to a large extent. Enlarging upon the bright side of things when your partner is pessimistic can be very supportive and this will be rewarded by a better understanding in times of conflict.
A mistake often made by couples is belittling each others’ family when they are irritated. This is a potential risk factor for conflicts. Also poking fun about the looks and behaviors of relatives can also trigger conflicts. Casual remarks by people outside the family should not be used to taunt each other.
“A Primer on Communication Studies v.1.0”. Retrieved from http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/a-primer-on-communication-studies/s06-04-self-disclosure-and-interperso.html
Krishan, U.D. and Margaret, S.A. (n.d.). “Effects of Communication Barriers in Marriage”. Retrieved from http://bsris.swu.ac.th/iprc/10th/UmaDevi_25-38.pdf
Lingren, H.G. “Managing Conflict Successfully”. Retrieved from
Penney, S. H., & Livingston, J. D. (2003). GETTING TO THE SOURCE; hints for wives -- and husbands. Journal of Women's History, 15(2), 180. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/203247613?accountid=1611
Thomas, M. (2014). “Advising a Newly Engaged Couple.” Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/7104528/Advice_for_a_Newly_Engaged_couple_using_Interpersonal_communication_research
William, S. (January 7, 2003). “Conflict Management”. Retrieved from