The “report” is synonymous with the content of any communication. The “command” aspect of the communication contains within it “information” as to the manner in which the communication is to be taken. This obviously will have a direct effect in setting up or maintaining a particular relationship between the sender and the receiver. There exists an important relationship between the content (report) and the relationship (command) aspects of communication. These aspects contain information about information, and any confusion between the two leads to a meaningless result.

In their commitment to one another, Dave and Kathy have devised effective as well as ineffective ways of communicating together. When they are effective, Dave and Kathy can communicate about something outside of their relationship, for example, their work, their career interests, their avocations. They can also, however, communicate about their own relationship and, in particular, about their processes of communication. This ability to communicate about one’s own processes of communication, is called “metacommunication”. This process of metacommunication is based, in turn, on the concept of the couple as a third entity. Once two partners recognize that this third entity exists, then they can discuss their relationship as an identifiable and changeable entity.

In the case of Kathy and Dave, we found out that Kathy assumed a very passive, secondary role in her first, abusive marriage. In her second marriage (to Dave), Kathy has assumed a much more dominant and controlling role. Perhaps this is one of the things that Kathy found attractive about Dave in the first place. Alternatively, this pattern of dominance may have developed later in the history of the couple when Kathy attempted to establish a safe relationship with Dave that would not be abusive to her.

The content of Kathy and Dave’s communication is about many different things,’ the relational aspects of the communication, however, is mostly about Kathy’s need for control and dominance in the relationship. For this pattern to change, Kathy and Dave must be willing to “meta-communicate!” “-that is, they must be willing to talk about this pattern of control and dominance. They must consider the establishment and carefully mutual monitoring of an alternative pattern of communication. Such a change is not easy and is often the central point in a major remarriage process. This process often must occur if the couple is to endure and hopefully thrive.


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William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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