I have come the realisation that the most important thing in life is relationships - especially family - however you regard it. Conversely the saddest tragedy in life is when relationships break down. When people die or are sick, it's not usually their choice (although may be influenced by earlier decisions) - but when a relationship falls apart, there are usually things both sides could have done differently. The good news is it's never too late - although admittedly that statement is as much theory and hope as observation.

Relationships are at different levels. Husband / wife (or the equivalent for those who have a different definition of "marriage") is the primary life-long relationship. Children / parents are another enduring relationship - although they have a key difference: you don't choose your parents / children. Siblings and extended family also fit that category. Then there are friends, acquaintances and colleagues. These are very different. For example most will know about Facebook "friends". Obviously these can be very different from real friends - but often include real friends.

Some research (e.g. Dunbar's number) suggests that about 150 might be the average number of relationships people can maintain, recognising that's not a universal number. Also with that there will be various levels of relationship - some being less than what might be regarded as friends. Given that, broken relationships also occur at different levels and affect people differently.

As a young man, I suffered a broken relationship with my parents. They restored the break before my dad died (he died relatively young). In hindsight the break occurred largely because of my poor attempts at communication. Perhaps that contributes to my belief that communication is the number one issue facing relationships. There are other issues - in particular money, sex and power - but communication can help or hinder any issue.

This subject is too big for one article. Here I just want to set out a few thoughts. First a saying usually but not definitively attributed to Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words". Now I am a words person - they feel natural to me and I love them. Perhaps that's why I enjoy puns. But communication is not all about words. When we lost our daughter, people tried to say the "right" words. There are no right words. And not saying something for fear of saying something wrong is often worse than not saying anything (unless you've got a really big foot). That was the first time in my life I was aware of accepting intentions without taking offence at careless words. A gentle squeeze on the arm and smile from an elderly lady meant more than words. She had been through what we were going through. In her day it was one of those things you didn't talk about - very sad. But it helped us more than many words.

It's commonly said thought that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. As is all too common, this is plainly false - but the essence is true. Mind you, another factor comes into play - people have different primary learning styles - some (not singling out kinaesthetic by name) are some are more different than others. The words we use only convey part of our "message". Even the example "rule" doesn't mention for example context. When you disagree with words you read here, please first try and see if we can at least understand each other. I'd suggest that misunderstanding (deliberate or not) is more common than understanding.

Then of course some dialogue may be warranted. If you're open to discussion, feel free to present your views. Others have done this with me - and I am grateful to them. It doesn't mean I will change my views totally or even partly - but I know I often need a challenge to upset my views. But if you're more interested in putting me down (rather than my ideas) or want to use abusive language, then save your time - I simply won't waste my time in replying.