Getting the 'music' right in our most important relationships

Most of us know the importance of positive communication in relationships. Strategies used include using "I" rather than "you" statements (saying what I feel and think rather than focussing on what is wrong with you), reflective listening (paraphrasing back to my partner what I have heard her/him say, to show that I have listened and taken it in), being interested and curious about what my partner is saying (and showing this through questions such as "can you tell me more about that?") and there are many more of these. All of these strategies are really important, and will greatly improve communication if used with a sincere desire to really hear and understand where our partner is coming from, as well as a willingness to make changes in response to what they say. The best verbal strategies, however, cannot make up for what we convey nonverbally. After all, experts say 80-90% of what we communicate is conveyed through our body language, tone of voice and other nonverbal ways. Working on how we convey acceptance and a willingness to listen and repond empathically MUST include thinking about what we communicate beyond words. Music is the language of nonverbal communication! Music has been used in every culture we know about to teach children (who are too young to have words yet) nonverbal communication patterns such as "call and response"  (one voice or instrument copies another) and "answering phrase" (one instrument plays, then another one responds with a different meoldy or rhythm that "finishes the phrase" or responds to the first phrase in a way that is somewhat different, but still matched to the first phrase). "Motherese" is a word that has been used to describe how parents of very young children do this with their voices, in response to their very young children. A mother may copy her baby's sounds, much to the baby's delight! Or she may respond to them with words - but of course we know that the baby is responding to her facial expressions, body movement and tone of voice! Music can help us to learn or re-learn positive templates for communicating well in our most important relationships. Once we have the 'music' of our communication right, then the words can follow, fitted into the rhythm, tempos and pitch of musical patterns that have developed over millenia to help us connect and stay attuned to each other. Get in touch with me if you are interested in working with music to improve how you communicate and connect with your children and your partner! The author of this blog, Vivienne Colegrove, is a music therapist in addition to her specialist training in couple and family therapy. She can be contacted via this website, at vivienne@elthamrelationshipcounselling.com.au, or on 0409 949 300.

 

 

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