“Five Levels of Communication
Most relationships never get beyond superficial interaction. Lasting relationships, however, move deeper. One sign of a healthy and growing relationship is a deepening level of intimacy in the interaction and communication of those involved in the relationship. “People interact for the most part at one or more of five different levels of communication, each level being deeper and more intimate than the previous one. At the lowest level is casual conversation. It is superficial and safe, such as the kind of talk we would have with a stranger in line with us at the supermarket. “Hello, how are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” “I’m fine, too. How are the children?” “They’re fine. What do you think about this weather we’re having?” There are no deep probing questions and no painful or embarrassing personal revelations, only polite, courteous, and inconsequential conversation. Everything is non-threatening and non-committal.
The next highest level of communication involves reporting the facts about others. “This is the kind of conversation in which we are content to talk with others about what someone else has said or done, but offer no personal information or opinions on these things. This is the level of the objective journalist, reporting only the facts of a situation, and then usually only what someone else has said. It involves no personal element.
Level three is where true communication first occurs because we begin to express our ideas, opinions, or decisions with the specific intention of being heard and understood by others. This openness also places us for the first time at a level of personal risk. Anytime we reveal any part of our inner selves—thoughts, ideas, beliefs, opinions—we open the door to possible rejection or ridicule. Intimacy is growing at this level, but there is still a safety zone. Our personal beliefs and ideas are less vulnerable to injury than are our emotions and innermost being, which at this level are still safely tucked away. “At level four we feel secure and intimate enough to begin sharing our emotions. Although deep and serious communication occurs at this level, there is still a guarded quality to the relationship. We are not yet ready to open up completely and let the other person see us as we really are deep down inside.
The highest level of all is the level of complete emotional and personal communication, characterized by absolute openness and honesty. At this level there are no secrets and no “off-limits” areas. We are ready and willing to lay our hearts bare, to open up every room and every compartment and invite close inspection. There is no greater or deeper level of intimacy than when two people feel free and secure enough to be completely honest with each other. At the same time, the risks of rejection or ridicule are at their greatest as well. Risk is unavoidable where true intimacy is involved. One way to define intimacy is the willingness and trust to make oneself completely “open and vulnerable to another. Vulnerability always involves risk, but there is no other path to true intimacy or genuine communication at its deepest level. “Long-term success and fulfillment in marriage depends to a large degree on the scope and depth to which a husband and wife develop their art of communication. It is vitally important that they learn how to listen to and understand one another and feel comfortable sharing their deepest and innermost thoughts, feelings, joys, sorrows, hopes, and dreams. Marriage is a lifelong journey of adventure with surprises and challenges at every turn. Learning to communicate effectively is also the journey of a lifetime. It is neither quick nor easy, but it yields increasing rewards of intimacy and fulfillment through the years that are well worth the hard work required.
vision, purpose, destiny,