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Higher levels of communication translate into more satisfying marriages

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Married couples can communicate at five hierarchical levels, and one of them is not screaming, a husband/wife leadership team said during a Fall Festival of Marriage at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center.
“The more often the husband and wife can reach and remain at the higher level of communication, the more satisfying their marriage,” said Deborah Brock. who with her husband, Greg, led a conference on “Communication for Dummies and Us Married Folks” during the Oct. 9-11 marriage retreat.
The Brocks, who live and work in Charleston, S.C., said their information about communication levels came from Gary Smalley, speaker, lecturer and author of “Making Love Last Forever.”
The five communication levels, in order of least to most difficult, are:
1. Sharing general information.
2. Sharing facts.
3. Sharing opinion and beliefs.
4. Sharing feelings and emotions.
5. Sharing needs, intimate concerns, hopes and fears.
At level one, spouses talk to each other just as they would talk to a new acquaintance or someone in a grocery line, the couple said.
“It’s the conversation they would have on the first few dates,” Deborah Brock said.
At level two, a couple shares facts.
“Sometimes in our marriages we get caught up in operating at level one or level two,” said Greg Brock, minister to small groups at Remount Baptist Church in Charleston.
“Communicating on level one is not wrong necessarily,” Deborah Brock said. “I call it survival information; it’s important to know what each other is doing on a daily basis. But essentially, it is a pretty safe level of communication.”
The third level of communication, the Brocks said, can become a bit more confrontational.
“This is where you share opinions, ideas and beliefs and where you can get more confrontational or more vulnerable during conversation,” said Deborah Brock, who teaches medical technology at Trident Technical College in Charleston.
In level three conversation, couples can begin to learn about each other through deeper discussion. “You can’t have a marriage without talking about your differences,” she said.
Level four is where conversation gets “a little scary,” the Brocks agreed.
“As we move to this level it is important to realize our feelings and emotions are our own,” Deborah Brock said. “As we work on this level as couples, we should be careful not to try to change each other’s feelings and emotions or criticize.”
This type of conversation helps bring feelings to the surface, she said.
The Brocks provided practice questions for couples to exercise level four communication, including:
1. I feel week when … .
2. I have feelings of pure pleasure when … .
3. When you express your love to me, I feel … .
4. How are you feeling right now?
Level five communication where needs, intimate concerns, dreams, hopes and fears are shared is “some heavy duty stuff,” Greg Brock said.
“If we don’t go to that level and say, ‘This is what I need from you,’ then we don’t find out what we need and we aren’t communicating well enough,” Deborah Brock said. “It’s scary to share our fears because we have to let our guard down to do it.”
Level five conversation, while the most desired level to reach, is not always appropriate.
“Don’t do it at the dinner table with your 10-year-old. It’s better with just the two of you,” she said. “Sometimes you have to plan time for level five communication.”
A recent study said couples should spend 15 hours a week in conversation, Greg said. “That’s two hours and eight minutes a day.
“The most important step to take regarding communication is to ‘Just do it.'”
To help couples reach higher levels of talk, the Brocks suggested a number of communications topics:
1. If you could keep just one memory, which one would you keep? Why?
2. What have been the five most important milestones we’ve passed together? Why was each so important to you?
3. Which two or three problems, if solved, would make the most positive difference in the marriage?
4. What three things do you feel produce the most stress in the marriage? What can be done to overcome them?
5. What dreams have been discarded because no one encouraged you to “go for it,” or because you feared you would fail?
6. In what single area do you most want to grow personally in the next year? How can I (spouse) help you?
7. If our house caught on fire and everyone was safely out, what three things would you want to save? Why?
8. What do you want your life to be like at age 70 (90)? What do you want our life together to be like at that time? What steps should we take to get there?

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  • Terri Lackey