What a Restaurant Server can Teach us About Communication

“Just because you have two ears and a mouth doesn’t mean you know how to communicate.” — (A mother’s advice to her son)

A common phrase we hear from most couples who come to us for help is, “We are looking for some new ‘tools’ that will help us communicate better.”

Certainly communication is a crucial ingredient to any relationship, but what these couples don’t always realize is that if these tools and skills are not placed on a firm foundation of other relationship principles they will have little positive effect over time. If we simply try to place new communication scripts and methods over hearts filled with resentment and a need to be right, the toxic brew will eventually bubble up and overwhelm even the best tools.

This process of building a strong foundation upon which meaningful and effective communication can reliably rest is one of the keys to the success that couples experience at our Retreats.

But, there is something that you can do immediately to improve yourself, your communication, and your relationship: Listen. Just patiently listen with real intent to understand your partner and their point of view. With good listening techniques problems are solved 70 % more effectively and relationship trust is strengthened rather than weakened. This implies that our prime communication goal is to understand one another’s perspective, not to fight to be right.

I am in awe of certain servers in some restaurants who don’t write the orders down, but learn how to listen closely to their customers and can repeat back any number of items from the order. Try thinking a little like a server during your next important conversation. Concentrate on what is being said and at appropriate points, repeat back what you have heard to make sure you understand your partner’s perspective (their “order”). Give them a chance to rephrase what they said if they sense you missed their meaning.

The truth is that as you truly listen to understand your partner, setting aside your need to refute or interrupt, you will almost always find that they will give you the same courtesy when it is time to share your thoughts and opinions, and you will both feel acknowledged and better able to reach the best solution. What a relief!