Secret of Effective Communication

The Secret of Effective Communication (1) – Speak in their Language

Communication is an act of exchanging information. It does not end at talking and listening. Effective communication involves listening empathically (with intent to understand the speaker) and speaking in the language that the listener understands. I will talk about the act of listening in my next post. In this post, I will talk about how to speak in their language. 

I had been posted to Imo State for my one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps and I looked forward to a new experience there in the east, but not so early. I couldn’t find a vehicle going directly to Imo so I went through Onitsha. At Onitsha park, the barker (which we call ‘agbero’) calling passengers into the vehicle started talking to me harshly in his language ‘Igbo’. I just stared at him in irritation wondering how he expected all passengers to understand his dialect. My stare and silence only pissed him off and he raised his voice even more. At that point, I asked him in English “why do you expect me to understand what you are saying?” As far as I knew, he was only ranting. If you want to be understood by people, speak in a language they understand.

Longing to Be Understood

Everyone wants to be understood by at least someone. But how can you be understood if you don’t speak? You do not go around expecting people to become telepathic for your sake. There are two basic things you need to do if you must be understood.

  1. Speak
  2. Speak in their language

Our various backgrounds affect the way we view communication. Some persons grow up in cordial family relationships where members of the family understand each other by their actions. Your brother or mum probably understands your different moods and their demands. For instance when you are unusually calm and withdrawn, they understand you are upset and they know just the right thing that sets you back into a good mood. Perhaps all you want is someone to sit with you and talk you into a better mood or sing your favorite song. This does not necessarily apply to every other person. It is not some sort of standard. Some other person grew up to understand that people having bad moods need to be left alone to recover.

Imagine what happens when these two individuals with opposite orientations come together in a relationship. One goes sulking around in the house waiting for attention while the other  person believe they are doing them a favor by staying out of their way. The problem in such a relationship is lack of communication. If you want to be understood, speak. It’s simple enough.

I had read books on marriage before I got married and I got to understand that one aspect of marriage that causes problem is finance, so I came prepared. I’m smiling right now because you might think I’m saying hubby and I are totally cool when it comes to finance. Not so fast! At first everything was fine but about a year later I noticed how he got irritated when we talk about how money is spent and it in turn got me upset.

One day in a friendly atmosphere I mentioned how his bad mood got me upset when we talk about money. It was after listening to him with intent to understand the problem that day that I figured the cause of the friction. To him, money should be disbursed to all planned channel as soon as it comes in to avoid misspending it. I, on the other hand, am not so much in a hurry when money comes in. I also do financial analysis on paper to remember unlike him who retains figures in his head. So while we are relaxing together and he is mentally dividing the money in the account and doing necessary transfers on his phone, I am barely paying attention to what he is saying because I feel when he is ready for business we will be using pen and paper. Then when he arrives at the balance left, I’m lost and he has to go all over what he has said again to put us on same page.

This problem did not come up initially when we got married because I was serious with the book keeping but I guess I overlooked it over time. I knew I had to go back and pick up where I left it to avoid frictions subsequently. We found a solution because each person spoke in a language the other person understood and we listened to each other.

Romans 14:19 (ESV)

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.


Communication is the tool that keeps peaceful co-existence going and for effective communication to take place, you have to make your voice heard. It does not end at just talking randomly. It extends to talking sensibly.

A lot of relationship problems would be solved if only:

  1. We tell people what exactly we want and not just assume that they are supposed to know.
  2. We communicate in the language of the listener and not our own language. If a man understands love as getting gifts and his wife understands it as being helpful with the house chores, then the best way for the man to express love to his wife would be by helping her with the house chores and not by getting her gifts. Similarly the woman would express her love to the man better by getting him gifts.

Master the act of speaking and listening effectively. Your relationship depends on it. You can also check my previous post on Emotional Intelligence.

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