Attributes of Healthy Relationships: Effective Communication

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been misunderstood in a conversation? Have you found yourself in an argument and wondered how you got there? I’m raising both hands! 

Communication is hard, especially in relationships—but so important. To effectively communicate, we need to relay AND hear the message intended with the correct motives. To me, effective communication exhibits the characteristics of High Fidelity and Positive Intent. 

High Fidelity is something that exhibits the quality of being faithful, or exact. In the audio/video world, a high-fidelity output signal matches the input with little, or no, lost information. Conversely, a low-fidelity output exhibits significant loss of information. The same could be said for our own “transmitted and received” messages with people.

  • Transmitter: For example, when I am speaking with my wife, am I relaying all the important details of my message? How is my body language, my tone? Am I conveying the emotion I intend?
  • Receiver: When she receives the message, did she hear, understand, and retain all the details I shared? Did she correctly interpret my body language, tone, and emotion, or did something get misconstrued? As you can see, any of those can reduce the fidelity of our communication.

Positive Intent is our internal “why” for the message. Are we trying to relay or receive the message in a loving way with concern for the other person’s feelings, always trying to improve the relationship? Or, are we allowing feelings of frustration or contempt to influence what we’re saying? 

  • What is the heart behind the message and what is my intent? What are my motives?
  • How am I relaying the message?
  • How is the other person receiving it? 

Electronic systems have the benefit of transmitting information with no intent, but we need to be watchful of the outpouring of our hearts. We are imperfect beings and can simply misspeak, breaking down the fidelity in our message. Sometimes, external circumstances leak into our communication with those we love, through our body language, tone and emotions. Sometimes, we have a hard heart and speak or react in a way that hurts the other person. This is where it’s good to give the benefit of the doubt. Your best toolset can be to ask clarifying questions or seek forgiveness. 

Creating effective communication doesn’t happen instantly, it takes time, work, and grace. When communicating with someone you love, consider the following:

  • Assess the motives behind what you are about to say, especially when frustrated, tired or hungry.
  • If you become offended or hurt by something someone says, clarify with them that what you heard is what they said, or intended to say. 
  • If there is a misunderstanding, have grace and give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Always try to reconcile in a way that strengthens the relationship.

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” – Romans 12:18 (NIV)

Next Steps

  1. Join other couples for Re|engage, a weekly small group-based marriage course to help reconnect, reignite, or resurrect your marriage.
  2. Whether you’re engaged, have been married for a few years or for decades, we have safe, encouraging environments for you to learn and grow. Visit for more details.
  3. Learn and grow together with other married couples by joining a small group.