by Rob Furlong
If you wanted to develop and deepen your communication with your spouse, where would you begin?
The answer may surprise you!
In her book, Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle says that it begins with a conversation with yourself.
Since the 1970s, Turkle has been studying the impact of technology upon our ability to engage in conversation with one another and, while she is writing about relationships in general, her observations also apply to married couples.
With the advent of the "smart phone" and other electronic devices, we are constantly connected and yet, we have grown more distant in our desire to relate to others at a meaningful level.
Turkle notes that there has been an increasing loss of empathy between people and the reason behind this is because a phone or computer makes no emotional demands upon you, there is no need for you to enter into what the computer might be feeling and there are no requirements for intimacy at any level.
So when it comes to real relationships with real people we are unable to empathise with them and we have no desire to enter into their world in any meaningful way.
And this is disastrous in friendships, especially marriages.
So if you want to change this, you may like to begin a conversation with yourself!
"Because it is in solitude," Turkle says, "Where we learn to concentrate and imagine and to listen to ourselves."
Just think about that for a moment.
Time alone with ourselves means that we need to give it our full attention and put away our electronic devices. You cannot pay attention to what is going on in your inner life if you are constantly distracted by who is saying what on Facebook or engaging in a text conversation.
And it holds true for our conversations with one another. The human brain is only able to give its attention to one thing at a time so if you are reading a Facebook status while you are talking with your spouse, then you are not giving the conversation (or the person) your full concentration.
Think also about the importance of being able to listen to yourself.
In times of solitude we are able to make space in order to process our internal world. It is here where we take time out to reflect on how we have responded in certain situations and to what feelings, good or bad, we might be experiencing at the moment.
"Why was I so angry when...?"
"What is it that I am grieving at this time?"
These are just a couple of the questions that it is important to ask of ourselves.
I have found that by making regular time for solitude in my life, I engage at a much deeper level of conversation with Karen.
It is a discipline that we have practiced for many years but which has grown significantly over this past year of our life together.
We have found that when we take the time to understand ourselves then we are in a much better place to also understand each other.
Turkle describes it like this: In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours. If we can't gather ourselves, we can't recognize other people for who they are. If we are not content to be alone, we turn others into the people we need them to be. If we don't know how to be alone, we'll only know how to be lonely.
So let me finish by asking you some questions:
? What is making you happy or sad right now?
? What is your biggest dream or hope?
? Where are you grieving loss right now?
If you cannot answer those questions with any clarity then it is time you had a conversation with yourself.•