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There’s more to a conversation than the words we speak, and even more than how we communicate these words. Breakdowns in communication often happen when we’re also speaking at different levels – when one person is simply talking about an event or surface issues, and the other is speaking of core desires and meaning.  Understanding these different levels allows us to avoid many frustrating moments of miscommunication.

For example, sometimes a complaint about household chores is just that, and it would be a mistake to assume our wife’s nagging is really communicating she doesn’t want to be married to us anymore. We’re hearing at a different level than what she’s communicating when this is the case.

Of course, it is possible a surface level complaint is simply shorthand for addressing deeper issues. A complaint about coming home late, our drinking habit, or the amount of time we spend on our phone might not be the core issue. The deeper issue might be related to our priorities and core values. And merely “fixing” the symptoms on the surface does little good when we don’t also address these deeper issues. All the same, we’re in a better position to respond appropriately when we’re communicating at the same level.

Many relational blow-ups can be traced back to this attempt to speak about the same issue at different levels, essentially putting us in two different conversations.

To be sure, surface issues are legitimate in their own right and they should be given the time and consideration they deserve. At the same time, they don’t carry the same weight as the deeper issues. And much frustration and grief are the result when we’re not aware we’re entering a conversation from two different vantage points.

In the end, conversations can take place at different levels. Do your part to ensure you know what you’re talking about – speaking and responding at the appropriate level.

Photo by Timur Weber on Pexels

Dr. Corey Carlisle

Licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist - providing Christian counseling and soul care to individuals and couples, with a special emphasis on developing the masculine soul. Suwanee, GA 30024

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