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Can We Talk About It?
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I saw a comic strip in which the wife said to her husband, “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant.” Try saying that quickly three times and you may begin to understand how truly difficult it is to express what we want to say so that the other person will understand. 

The key, my friends, is communication. 

 In this book1, "Making Love Last Forever," Gary Smalley refers to five levels of intimacy in communication, moving from the superficial to the meaningful. As we relate to others, particularly our spouses and loved ones, we want to have more than just superficial conversation—we want to develop closeness and a depth that will strengthen relationships and take each other through the thick and thin of life. Here are the five levels of intimacy in communication:

1. Clichés. “How was your day?”; “What’s up?” Conversation at this level usually does not mean much. In many ways, our common greeting, “Hi, how are you?” is at this level. If people respond with a personal account of how they really are doing we become uncomfortable. After all, we didn’t really need to care to know anyway.

2. Facts. “Traffic on I-94 was heavy today”; “Did you know Mike and Sue had a baby boy?” Much like level one, this is very shallow communication. It is fairly safe because we’re usually sharing information that is probably not important to either the speaker or the listener.

3. Opinions. “It’s warm today, isn’t it?”; “How can anyone like that music? I can’t stand it!” We get to this level when we begin to trust others. Because we trust, we also become more vulnerable. When others don’t share our opinions, conflict sometimes arises. We have to remember that conflict is not bad but, if properly managed, may help us draw closer together.

4. Feelings. “I was hurt when you forgot our anniversary.” Opening up this way can be scary, but it can help us reach a deeper level of love for one another. In fact, one of the most caring questions we can ask is, “How are you feeling right now?” When we love someone, we are interested in his or her feelings, and we encourage his or her expression.

5. Needs. “I just need you to listen to me for a few minutes.” If we feel secure in our relationship, we will take the risk of really opening up. Depending on whom we are talking to, we may move through these five levels—testing our comfort level, taking risks, checking the response and the other person’s openness—until we find the right person with whom we can be completely transparent and achieve true intimacy.

Solomon wrote, “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23). While we can maintain a relationship as we communicate at the first three levels, only going deeper into the fourth and fifth levels will help us have the richest, most satisfying relationships.

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By Claudio Consuegra. Reprinted with permission from Mid-America Outlook Magazine, Vol. 28, #4. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

1 Smalley, Gary. "Making Love Last Forever," Word Publishing, 1996.

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