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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Communication and Selflessness: The Heart of A Happy Eternal Union

Photo by Roxana Gonzalez
A friend and I were discussing what makes a happy eternal union: and what partnership qualities are. We boiled it down to two things: communication and selflessness. I think both are absolutely necessary, and have equal importance. Without either, you have the makings of a divorce.

What is Communication?
The technical definition of communication is:

1. The act of communicating; transmission.
2. a. The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior.
b. Interpersonal rapport.
c. The art and technique of using words effectively to impart information or ideas.

I really like the one which states that communication is 'the art and technique of using words effectively to impart information or ideas' (italics added for emphasis.

When it comes to human relationships, being effective in communication can be a tricky thing. Not only do we need to be sure we are saying what we mean, and meaning what we say, but we also have to ensure we are communicating in a way in which the recipient can clearly understand us and what we truly mean. Sometimes we are like the person speaking in Greek to the person who only understands French; or the person speaking on a PhD level to the person who only comprehends on a 2nd Grade level.

As the presenter of the information, we have a responsibility to ensure we are speaking in a way the recipient clearly understands.

As a recipient of information, our responsibility is similar. We need to be sure we are really listening rather than putting our own filters on what is being said. We need to hear the speaker, and not get lost in our own internal voice critiquing and answering the information which is being relayed, as it is being relayed. We also need to ask questions, using techniques such as paraphrasing and parroting to open the door for the speaker to clarify anything we have not understood.

Parroting is the act of repeating back, like a parrot, verbatim what you have heard. It shows you were carefully listening, however it doesn't illustrate what was heard was understood.

Paraphrasing is the technique of putting what the speaker said into your own words, and then repeating it back to them. This not only indicates that you carefully listened, but it also can highlight what was understood and what was not. This gives the speaker an opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.

Simple acknowledgments ('yeah', 'ok', 'uh huh') have their time and place, but are not enough in the full scope of effective communications. It is not enough to hear the words being spoken. We must hear and understand the meaning of the speaker which lies beneath the vocabulary.

Another critical aspect of effective communication is that of openness and honesty. For us to achieve a happy and eternal union, we must not only be open and honest with each other, but we must first and foremost be open and honest with ourselves. We cannot be honest with others if we are deceiving ourselves. If we are deceiving ourselves, we are building our relationship upon a foundation of sand, and it will eventually come crashing down around us.

Open, honest, and effective communication is the foundation of trust, and virtually eliminates all opportunities for the spirit of contention to enter into our union.

What is Selflessness?

Technically, selflessness is defined as:

1. the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others [syn: altruism] [ant: egocentrism]
2. acting with less concern for yourself than for the success of the joint activity

Selflessness is a crucial aspect of genuine love, and of creating a happy eternal union. When we put our partner's welfare and best interest first: ahead of what we want and need, we have won half the battle. If our partner also is doing the same, what do we have to contend about or worry about?

When we selflessly love our partner it is reflected in our words and actions to them and away from them. Our own happiness is rooted in theirs. We seek to find ways to serve them, give to them, sacrifice for them, meet their needs, love them, care for them, and protect them.

Our thoughts and heart is centered in their needs and welfare. If they fail to meet a need of ours, our thoughts do not focus on this, and then go to what we are going to withhold from them because of it. Selflessly loving our partner is only selfless when it is also without condition. When conditions are placed upon it, selfishness is rearing its ugly head.


communication. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. (accessed: October 07, 2007).

selflessness. WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. (accessed: October 07, 2007).

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