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Many people ask "Tell me what I can do to build a more loving relationship with others, be it a friend, colleague or spouse?" The answer is by "better communication".

Here are the remaining of the Twelve principles we started discussing two weeks ago, to help you to build that loving and lasting relationship.

If you are single, the following principles will enhance your personal communication with others in your circle of friends. If you are dating, you will certainly want to apply them immediately.

For those of you who are married, these principles can dramatically improve your communication with your spouse and children. Most marriages do not ever develop intimacy beyond the level of communication between the spouses-and that, of course, depends on how much you desire openness and verbal interaction. Should you be a parent, effective implementation of these principles will reduce the complaint, "You aren't listening to me"(probably the biggest complaint teens have against their parents).

7. Wait for the Right Time: "Timely advice is as lovely as gold apples in a silver basket," we read in Proverbs 25:11. Proverbs 15:23 echoes, "How wonderful it is to be able to say the right thing at the right time!" In a relationship, dialogue will be enhanced if the right words are spoken at the right time. And love must be your guide as to when and where you share bad news or discuss a difficult subject.

8. Share Your Feelings: a vulnerability that allows you to share feelings, inner thoughts, deep hurts, and a great joys is essential to a healthy climate of intimacy and closeness. Learn to say how you feel in conversation as well as what you think. Partners can argue over thoughts and ideas, but feelings can not be debated. They can only be acknowledged. So coming to understand each other's emotions is the gateway to psychological intimacy. When there is no regular expression of felling between a couple, they will remain locked out of the love and intimacy that is their treasure. The ability to share intimately is crucial to a fulfilled love and marriage relationship. Lines of communication must be kept open especially on the feelings level.

Men will often regard sharing emotions and feelings as a sign of weakness. Men tend more toward intellectual and rational arguments than to feelings. 'I can do it by myself. I don't need any help.' Unfortunately this leads to the inability to say 'help me' when help is desperately needed.

9. Avoid Mind Reading: Warning: Don't take it for granted that the other person understands your gestures, the tone of your voice, or your body language. It becomes very frustrating in a relationship when each person assumes the other knows what he or she is thinking and feeling and wants to do. Mind reading rarely works and never consistently.

Avoid dangerous assumptions. When your friend or spouse does something that hurts your feelings, you have to let him or her know. Don't just assume or hope that he or she will figure it out and come to you first. Every relationship would become more harmonious and more intimate if we would just stop assuming and start communicating our feelings.

10. Give a Response: If there is one thing that always encourages sharing, it is giving either verbal or body language feedback. When our heart reaches out to others, it yearns for acknowledgement.

Here are some helpful suggestions to show that you are absorbing what another is saying:

React physically. Turn toward that person. Lean forward. Nod your head in response. Keep looking the person in the eyes. Nothing shows greater interest than eye contact.

Request more information. Ask a question that seeks clarification or additional details."Tell me more-I'm interested."

Reflect on what has been said with a leading statement. Reflective listening pays off in more intimate sharing.

Repeat or rephrase statements with feeling. Echoing the meaning or feeling of a statement both clarifies and encourages further communication.

Remain silent when some one is telling a story. Don't interrupt, and don't finish sentences for people.

Refrain from concentrating on your answer or rebuttal while another is still talking-it makes you impatient to speak. You will not be able to truly listen if you are thinking of what you are going to say next.

Express your encouragement and appreciation for what the other person has been sharing. Both of these enhance healthy communication. Solomon, in all his wisdom, knew that "kind words are like honey-enjoyable and healthful" (Proverbs 16:24).

These techniques are just a few of the best ways to actively be a better listener. Remember that your ear can open the door to another's heart, so don't close it.

11. Be Honest: The Word of God says: "speak the truth in love"(Ephesians 4:15). To speak the truth in love means to take into consideration the other person's feelings. A truly skillful and loving communicator is sensitive to the consequences of his words and actions.

Solomon gave wise counsel when he said, "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (Proverbs 29:20). When "loving communication" takes place you can share what is most genuine-imperfections and all. Speaking the truth in love also involves verbalizing your love for another in words.

12. Persevere: As in acquiring a foreign language, learning to communicate skillfully takes time, dedication, focus, and practice. Some of us may be better at it than others, so patience with them and ourselves is necessary. But every one of us can continue to improve. So persevere in consistently developing your listening skills to build lasting and loving relationships.

Being an effective, skillful communicator is a major tool in becoming the "right person", and you can start right where you are. If you are single, begin to practice these principles with your friends and on dates. If you are married, begin with your spouse. With your example, and loving, honest patience, encourage your mate to grow with you as a communicator. Be encouraged!

*************************Letter # 32 (25.8.2002)**************
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