Landmark Forum Leader David Cunningham was interviewed on Good Life Radio about family communication. Here are a few pieces of that interview.

Interviewer: With us today is David Cunningham, one of 54 people who conduct the Landmark Forum, one of Landmark Education’s core programs, in more than 100 locations throughout world. Cunningham has led communication programs for thousands of people since 1991. Cunningham has a Masters Degree in Education, and he formally served as the director of Connecticut Justice for Children Collaboration and the director of chapter development for the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse. We’re honored to have this global VIP with us.

Today we’re going to be talking about families. One of the big questions that typically comes up with families is how to go about achieving effective communication. Can you help us with that?

Cunningham: I think there’s three key things for families to communicate effectively. The first one, I’d say, is listening. I think people underestimate the power and the value of listening to each other. By listening I don’t just mean hearing what each other say, I mean really listening. I mean that when you really listen to somebody, you’re committed to hear what’s important to them, and that they know when they’re done talking you really do understand what’s important to them. So the first thing about communication is, more than talking, listening to each other.
The second thing for effective communication, is that it’s important for people when they’re in a conversation with each other, that every point of view is considered a valid point of view. Each of us have our own point of view about life. None of us can have the same point of view. It’s impossible for any two people to have the exact same view of life. When we get a view of life, however, we think our view is the right view, and so when somebody has a different one we think theirs is wrong. Be real clear there is no right point of view; every point of view is valid.

And then the third and final point that is important is always keeping love and respect present in any communication. When we’re talking to people in our families it’s easy, just given the daily stresses of life and given all the opinions and judgments that are so easy to form, is to take our hearts away, to stop giving our love to the other person, or to come up with an opinion about the other person and take our respect away.

So three things; one, listening, two is respecting each other’s point of view as valid, and three is keeping the love and respect present.

Interviewer: Let’s move on to marital situations. So what do spouses need to say to each other to have intimacy, to have an intimate relationship?

Cunningham: There’s a couple of key things here. The first thing that needs to be there is that they need to express their gratitude to be with each other. Just the simple gratitude that each other is there, that they have each other there in their lives. Now, there’s some real thinking that goes on behind that, if you really deal with life. The one thing that you get from a relationship that you can’t get any other way is the opportunity to be somebody. Now, what do I mean by that?

You could say there’s three different domains of life. There’s what you have in life, there’s what you do in life, and there’s who you get to be as a human being. And if you closely examine a relationship, a couple, well, almost everything that you get from the relationship you can get anywhere whether you’re in the couple or not, and almost everything you do in life you can do whether you’re with that person or not. But when somebody says, especially when somebody says they’ll marry you, they’ll commit to you for life, they say “Yes, I’ll be with you for the rest of my life”, in that moment they give you the opportunity to be somebody that has another whole person’s life in their hands. And you get to be somebody that has another person thrive and grow and be happy and be great and that’s an extraordinary opportunity that only somebody who says “I’ll be with you” gives you the opportunity for. So, the first thing for couples to have intimacy in their communication is to express their gratitude for each other and keep the gratitude present.

Another thing that gets in the way of intimacy is anything that’s withheld. If two people have secrets from each other, if they have things they think they can’t say to each other, they really will get distant. And so it’s important for intimacy that nothing’s withheld, that people communicate fully, openly, and completely with each other. And if there’s something withheld, something kept back -- maybe it’s an opinion, maybe it’s a secret, maybe as simple as “I spent more money than you wanted me to”.

If I went shopping and I think I spent more money than you wanted me to, and then I don’t say that or I withhold that or I try to keep that a secret, there will be distance between us immediately. So, the second important thing is that people really are in full communication, there’s nothing withheld. So, there’s the appreciation of each other, the gratitude for each other, and then there’s nothing withheld. Those are two key things right at the beginning.

Author's Bio: 

The author is a writer and world traveler who enjoys writing about people and communities coming together.