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Dear Jimmy and Julie
I must admit that I am excited to share with you a piece of advice that would help you lead a happy married life. I may not be an expert in this area, but as you may be aware, am currently studying interpersonal communication, and I feel that I have a lot to share with you. For newlyweds, you must embrace practices and values that would nurture your young marriage, and they include interpersonal communication, resolving interpersonal conflicts, learning to listen and communicate with one another, and learning to manage your emotions. I will elaborate on these points in the following sections to help you understand them better.
Handling Interpersonal Conflicts
Interpersonal conflicts often arise not only in marriages but also in contexts like workplaces and schools. A conflict may be described as a struggle pitting two people over scarce resources or incompatible goals and interests (Miczo, Segrin & Allspach, 2001). A conflict can only arise when the two interdependent parties perceive their interests or goals as incompatible or when one perceives the other party as an obstacle to achieving his or her goals. Learning how to handle interpersonal conflicts is important to you because, as a young couple, any contentious issue should be resolved in time to avoid disagreements, which will only increase tension and lead to a full-fledged conflict.
According to Miczo, Segrin, and Allspach (2001), “different people have varying degrees of comfort with interpersonal conflicts, with most people going to greater lengths to avoid them” (p. 41). This assertion implies that disagreements, when they occur, remain unaddressed, which only makes the situation worse. Couples who fail to resolve small issues risk paying a heavy price later when a conflict arises.
Therefore, my advice to you is that you should learn how to handle and manage disagreements before they deteriorate into conflicts. One way of managing potential conflicts is by learning to speak to each other calmly and respectively instead of yelling at each other.
Another approach you can use to manage conflicts in your young marriage is by understanding your spouse. Attempting to blame, criticize, or dismiss your spouse’s views or focusing on just your point of view while dismissing his or her opinion is a recipe for a conflict (Miczo, Segrin & Allspach, 2001). In your communication, you should keep in mind the differences in social norms, values, and concerns that guide individual behaviors as they influence communication in conflict situations.
Besides, to manage conflicts in your marriage, take into consideration contextual factors that cause the conflict, such as lack of intimacy, power relations, and gender differences. These contextual factors may seem less important during dating, but in your marriage, they are important due to the high interdependence between the two of you.
Something else that I would advise you regarding the resolution of interpersonal conflicts is to encourage personal choices in your marriage. Research shows that in conflict situations, couples tend to exhibit a ‘demand-withdrawal’ behavior, whereby demands from the wife only make the husband withdraw or act passively (Miczo, Segrin & Allspach, 2001). This aspect only makes matters worse as a conflict may arise if the wife demands more.
I would advise you to express your concerns, feelings, or opposition openly to your spouse’s demands instead of using anger or compromise to approach such issues. On the contrary, assertiveness in your relationship will only make the resolution of conflicts difficult. Instead, you should learn to respect the other party’s personal choices.
Conventionally, communication is an important part of a happy marriage. Indeed, effective communication is one way you can use to live happily in your marriage. In this regard, my advice to you is to learn the misconceptions as well as the strategies of fruitful interpersonal communication, as it will help you to understand one another better. Social interactions and sharing with friends and relatives happen all the time for young couples.
You must project good interpersonal communication, including non-verbal cues, as this element sends a strong message to people around you. Interpersonal communication is achieved through verbal and non-verbal messages between two individuals with common values or beliefs. Therefore, your communication should indicate mutual understanding through the exchange of verbal messages and gestures.
One common mistake that couples make is to assume that their partners cannot understand their feelings, which leads to disagreements and conflicts. I would advise you to understand your partner’s body language to communicate effectively. Even language is regarded as a code in some cases, and thus the same message can be understood differently in different situations (Miczo, Segrin & Allspach, 2001). For instance, some language expressions have different meanings, and they cannot be taken literally. Therefore, as couples, you should understand the context of a remark to make a relevant interpretation of the communication.
Besides context, a message can have different meanings depending on the audience of the speaker. Also, nonverbal cues may have a deeper meaning than simply signs (Preston, 2005). A facial expression like a frown or a smile may not necessarily reflect an individual’s feelings, and thus, you must understand your partner to communicate with each other effectively.
Aspects of voice and speech are also important in effective interpersonal communication. In particular, voice quality even though an aspect of a person’s vocal is often influenced by social situations. For instance, the pitch of the voice may be subject to the individual conversing with the speaker. Similarly, the speaker’s voice may be induced by his or her internal states (Mottet, 2000). For example, anger or stress can affect voice quality during conversations; however, this aspect may not be universal. My advice to you is that you learn to decode your partner’s verbal and nonverbal messages to communicate well in your conversations.
Effective communication begins with self-reflection and thoughtfulness (Mottet, 2000). You should always be mindful of your speech and whatever message you are communicating. Besides, listening skills and the ability to understand your partner are crucial. It is important that you not only listen to what your partner is saying, but you also try to comprehend it from his or her viewpoint. As newlyweds, you will interact frequently.
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Take time to understand each other’s hopes, aspirations, and fears. This goal can only be achieved if you learn to listen to your spouse and act thoughtfully. When speaking to your partner, do not be judgmental or jump to conclusions; rather, give advice or solutions to a problem. Additionally, when speaking, always use clear language, not words with double meanings or sarcasm. It is also important you show empathy and patience when speaking.
Effective Interpersonal Interactions
Interpersonal interactions in the context of marriage are not only necessary but also important in any relationship. They not only affect the happiness of your marriage but also your relationship with friends and relatives. At times, interpersonal communication may become problematic due to various obstacles that affect people’s ability to interact effectively. Therefore, as a young couple, I would advise you to understand some of these barriers as an essential step towards achieving fulfilling interpersonal interactions. The barriers can be grouped into three categories, viz. physical, emotional, and cultural barriers.
Physical barriers are the most common barriers that impede effective interactions in a relationship. Such barriers include the geographical distance between two people. Long distances are a major barrier to communication and interaction with far-reaching implications for the stability of relationships. Although communication devices help spouses in different locations to maintain a healthy relationship, technical barriers present a challenge to regular communication and may even develop into emotional barriers. On the other hand, emotional barriers arise from fear, anxiety, and mistrust. According to Preston (2005), emotional barriers develop from our past socialization experiences. I would urge you to learn to trust your partner and manage your emotions to facilitate effective communication.
Cultural barriers also affect interactions in a relationship. Communication is essential in marriage, and cultural differences, including language, affect intercultural communication. Cultural differences often arise as we have different experiences. Also, gender differences influence the methods of communication, which means that misunderstandings may arise in a marriage. For example, men tend to use assertive statements, which may be misconstrued and lead to misunderstandings when making a conversation. Other barriers that you should be aware of include social anxiety. Social anxiety often leads to withdrawal, hence a barrier to communication and interpersonal interactions.
Levels of Self-Disclosure
Most people do not like sharing personal information and feelings due to fear of associated negative consequences. However, self-disclosure can be beneficial, as partners can understand each other and grow in a marriage. One way a person can share personal feelings is by showing empathy. Empathy allows us to not only respect other peoples’ views but also understand issues from their perspectives (Johnson, 2011).
In particular, empathic listening influences interpersonal communication since it defines how people interact with one another. For married people like you, interpersonal communication skills, including empathy are crucial in your daily interactions. Furthermore, as a couple, you should improve your level of self-disclosure to each other. It demands emotional control and compassion, which is an invaluable gift in marriage.
Self-disclosure improves as the relationship develops, and partners get to know each other more. A social penetration theory discussed by Johnson (2011) states that as the relationship grows, self-disclosure grows in depth and breadth. Breadth means the number of issues partners can talk about, while depth means how they respond or react to information shared. According to this theory, partners should learn to balance between openness and being reserved (Johnson, 2011). In as much as you would want to improve your levels of self-disclosure, it is also important,= that you maintain some level of individual privacy.
Another theory that may determine the level of self-disclosure in your relationship is a social comparison theory. It states that partners can evaluate each other by comparing their skills and abilities as a form of self-disclosure (Hargie, 2011). It is important to reveal information regarding your skills and abilities to define common interests. As your marriage grows, you should open up and share more information about your talents, values, fantasies, and abilities. In this way, you can get support and advice from your partner.
The Role of Emotional Intelligence
In a bid to improve your self-disclosure level, you should be emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence refers to knowledge of one’s emotions as well as the emotions of others coupled with acting in an understanding way (Johnson, 2011). Emotional intelligence has four dimensions. Firstly, the ability to understand one’s emotions as well as the emotions of others around you; secondly, thinking and acting positively based on our understanding of different kinds of emotions; thirdly, understanding the relationships between different emotional responses; and finally, managing our emotions to understand other people’s emotions.
Lack of emotional intelligence is a leading cause of misunderstandings and problems in relationships. I would urge you to understand your emotions and learn to regulate them, as it will enable you to handle issues within your marriage with sobriety and interact with others effectively. Emotional intelligence makes people restrained and objective when handling emotive issues. Emotional intelligence will help you understand others, control your actions, and act appropriately so that you have a good marriage.
Emotional intelligence will also help you in your interpersonal interactions. It will enable you to learn to listen, understand, and motivate your partner in a relationship. Besides, lack of emotional intelligence is a barrier to effective communication, and sometimes it contributes to bad decisions. Emotionally intelligent people are good problem solvers, decision-makers, speakers, and effective relationship partners. Moreover, emotional intelligence will help you to remove personal biases and feelings from interpersonal interactions. An emotionally intelligent person, even with provocation, does not show an emotional response.
It is important to note that people have different levels of emotional intelligence. Individuals with a high level of emotional intelligence are more restrained, communicate effectively, and experience less interpersonal conflicts than emotional people. Emotional individuals experience difficulty expressing themselves or resolving a conflict. Their emotional responses often fuel interpersonal conflicts. I would advise you to know your emotional intelligence first before setting out to develop it. In this way, you will learn to control your emotions, communicate effectively, and handle issues objectively, after which you can build and grow a happy marriage.
Developing a Positive Self-Concept
Self-concept refers to the conscious opinion of one’s self in our surroundings and interpersonal interactions (Huitt, 2011). Self-concept is synonymous with self-esteem. Self-concept is regarded as an aspect of a person’s self-image. It is an individual’s emotional aspect or idea that a person has about himself or herself. A positive self-concept is attributed to positive behaviors such as motivated behavior and confidence in one’s abilities. According to Huitt (2011), when a person has a positive self-concept, he or she has an understanding of his or her abilities and can work to maximize outcomes in any endeavor. This statement underscores the importance of having a positive self-concept.
One way of developing a positive self-concept is to know yourself, which can be achieved by embracing self-reflection and meditation. Individuals with positive self-concepts always reflect on their actions, which guides them in their future actions.
However, as Huitt (2011) posits, “Self-concept is not innate as it is developed through experiences and interactions with other people and reflecting on each action” (p.64). In self-reflection, an individual meditates on his or her actions or accomplishments for his or her expectations. Self-esteem is developed through self-reflection of a person’s behavior in the context of one’s expectations as well as other people’s expectations.
Therefore, the environment plays a role in shaping our self-concept as people in different environments often have varying expectations, which implies that the journey you have just started as newlyweds is a new one for both of you. Your marriage presents you with a great opportunity to develop a positive self-concept. Self-concept changes depending on the environment. According to Huitt (2011), it is possible to improve low self-esteem through continuous self-reflection as through self-reflection individuals can look at the self in a new and positive way and, in this way, develop high self-esteem.
There are different aspects of self-concept, which you should strive to develop, including transpersonal, academic, physical, and social self-concept (Huitt, 2011). Physical self-concept refers to one’s physical looks like your clothing and your home, among others. The academic dimension of self-concept refers to one’s ability to learn new things and concepts. On the other hand, social self-concept entails the nature of one’s relationship with other people and interactions in social contexts while the transpersonal self-concept relates to an individual’s spirituality and religiosity. I would advise you to understand yourself for these four aspects of self-concept and work towards improving your self-concept. This aspect will not only ensure a fulfilling relationship but will also guarantee you a happy and successful marriage.
Huitt, W. (2011). Self and self-views: Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.
Johnson, T. (2011). Healthy relationships lead to better lives. The Nation’s Health, 41(2), 20-24.
Miczo, N., Segrin, C., & Allspach, L. (2001). Relationship between nonverbal sensitivity, encoding, and relational satisfaction. Communication Reports, 14(1), 39-48.
Mottet, P. (2000). The role of sexual orientation in predicting outcome value and anticipated communication behaviors. Communication Quarterly, 48(3), 223-239.
Preston, P. (2005). Nonverbal communication: Do you really say what you mean? Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(2), 83-86.