Communication either makes or breaks most relationships. Most people believe that they are communicating with their partners when in fact they are only talking about everyday surface topics. Conversation in a relationship can indeed include this, but also needs to encompass the deeper levels involving our emotions. Because opening up on an emotional level makes us vulnerable and carries a level of risk it is important to minimize communication problems.
Here are 14 ways to do that.
Find the Right Time – If you need to discuss something that is important to you make sure that your partner will be available to listen. If they are immersed in something that they are doing, that is not the right time.
Talk Face to Face – Talking face to face allows you to observe communication information such as body language which is not available over the phone or in writing.
Stop and listen – Focus fully on the speaker and what is being said. Trying to do something else at the same time will only lead to misunderstandings.
Force yourself to hear – Concentrate on the message and understanding to the best of your ability what is being said.
Be open and honest with your partner – Being open and honest is something that every couple wants but few achieve. The barrier in being open and honest occurs when the person being open and honest is met by a adverse reaction from their partner. If you want your partner to be open and honest you need to be prepared to listen and not react in an attacking manner to what you hear. Being attacked and put down when you are being open and honest is the fastest way to learn that your partner is not really interested in honesty.
Pay attention to nonverbal signals – Look for non verbal signs that show changes in your partner such as building anger, loss of interest, fear, anxiety etc. These can be portrayed though facial expressions and body posture. Use this information in conjunction with what is being said to determine whether to say or approach things differently.
Stay focused on the topic – Conversations can start out with one topic, but if you are not careful can get off track and become about something else entirely. This is particularly true when past events, not relevant to the topic, are brought up. Stay on topic and work through it.
Never say never or always – These are black and white statements meaning that you are at one extreme or the other and there is nothing in between. It is more likely that somebody does things sometimes or often, rather than never or always.
Stress and out-of-control emotion often leads to misinterpretation of what is really happening – If you are stressed or the conversation has become emotionally charged, it is time to take a break. Have a prearranged agreement with your partner that you will both take time out when things are getting out of control.
Try to set aside judgment – When we judge somebody, we are looking at what they are saying and doing through our perspective on what is right and wrong. To avoid judging people, it is essential to try to understand things from their perspective and to understand what things mean to them.
Slow the conversation down to give yourself time to think – When we hear something that “triggers us”, the first thing that happens is an emotional response occurs inside of us. Without thinking, it is easy to react based on how we feel, resulting in a misunderstanding of what your partner is saying. Returning fire with an unhelpful comment and escalation to an argument usually follows. Use techniques such as taking a deep breath or saying “I need a second to think”, to allow your brain to catch up with what is happening.
Do Not Attack – In conversations attacking is done by saying things like “you did this and you upset me”. Using “you” language is attacking language. By using “you” language the blame for how you feel is being put onto the other person. This is likely to provoke a defensive reaction from them. Better to use “I” language by saying “I feel really upset and let down by this situation”.
Here you are saying how you are feeling and then you can ask for your partner to help you change this.
Watch your shoulds and shouldn’ts – Should and shouldn’ts are used by people who believe they hold the truth and take the high moral ground in the conversation. The usual result is your partner becomes defensive. Rather than telling your partner what to do try phrasing it as a suggestion instead.
Avoid sarcasm, monopolizing or mind reading – Making remarks that clearly mean the opposite of what they say in order to hurt your partner, dominating or monopolizing a conversation or assuming what your partner is thinking or meaning quickly leads to sabotaging the conversation. Best to avoid all three.
Need more help with communication in your relationships? Call Tracey at StartPoint Counselling on 07 34581725.
(c) StartPoint Counselling 2015