In the past few articles, we've discussed the first 3 of the 5 most common communication mistakes: Case Building, Story Telling, and Message Assuming.

Case building is the first choice we are faced with in communication. It is deciding whether we want to build a case against somebody by gathering evidence to be used against them, or whether we want to build a connection with them.

Story telling is when we tell ourselves a story about an observation -- and then believe it. We see our lover come to bed with flannel pajamas on, decide they must not want to be intimate (and no longer find us attractive) and then begin pouting about it without ever checking out the reality.

The third mistake is Message Assuming - that is, assuming that the person we are talking to actually understands our message in the way that we intended. Or that we understood theirs. We talk and talk, trying to explain ourselves, yet never check that the other person understands us.

The fourth mistake is Cup Stuffing. This is trying to get somebody to listen or do something for you when they are already in overwhelm - their cup is full with all the challenges of the day. The baby is crying, dinner has to be cooked, the kids need your help, and the boss is calling from work--and now you want me to listen to your problems?

When people are in need of empathy themselves (empathy is the process of listening, understanding and feeding back what they heard) they are unable to hear what we are saying. It's not until we give them some empathy for their feelings and needs that they will be able to hear us.

Paul and I run into this a lot when I get home from school. We both have full cups from our busy days and if one of us tries to stuff more into the other's cup - stuffing things like problems that crept up in the software, emotional upsets with co-workers or students - then we end up with two very snitty and unhappy people.

The answer? Learning to give empathy to the other before unloading our own issues.mAnd how does one do this? Through the Language of Peace. The Language of Peace is the process of giving and receiving empathy.

The Language of Peace, based on Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication has four distinct steps that help people connect in a heart-felt process:

- state the observation, "When you saw the trash still in the kitchen after asking 3 times..."
- then find the feeling by ask, "Were you feeling frustrated...?"
- then find the need ..."because you're needing some cooperation and support?"
- then ending by making a request. The most useful request is to ask, "Would you mind telling me what you heard me say?"

That way you'll know if you really understood what was going on for them... and sometimes... just saying the words that connect their feelings and needs can be incredibly soothing to the person receiving empathy.

Here's an assignment: the next time you get together with your beloved, a friend, or somebody in your family, ask them...

"Tell me what has been making your life less than wonderful these days?"

Then follow the steps of the Language of Peace.

It would sound like this: "So, when you loaned your sister the money to get her car fixed and she spent it on a new skirt, were you feeling a little frustrated and disappointed because you have a need for honesty and for the safety of the people you love?"

Not understanding these mistakes can cost you the love of the people most important to you. We've worked with parents who haven't talked to their grown kids for years over a misunderstanding - siblings who no longer talk after a disagreement - and of course divorcees... whose relationships didn't need to end, but who didn't have the communication tools to make it through.

This is not just a 'little report'. This an opening to a communication process that can help you avoid some of the most painful, intimacy-destroying, relationship-wrecking communication mistakes around (I know... I've tried all of them!)

I realize that even with my great and wonderful teaching skills it will take more than one read-through to really make these skills your own. Read this several times. Print it out, read it out loud with your spouse before going to bed, and when you wake up. Take it on your vacation to remind yourself what you really want from your relationship and what you want to avoid....

If you would like more information on how to identify and avoid any of the 5 relationship-wrecking mistakes, you get more information at our web-site, including audio interviews that take you step-by-step through the process.

Good luck on your grand adventure. We would love to hear your success stories on how you applied these communication principles.

Author's Bio: 

Kristin Denton & Paul Sterling teach Relationship Communication Skills -- Live Seminars or Tele-Classes including '4 Steps To Instant Intimacy & Understanding'- '5 Relationship-Wrecking Mistakes'-- To get a free copy of 'The 5 Mistakes Report' go to