Good communication is an important part of all relationships and is an essential part of any healthy partnership. All relationships have ups and downs, but a healthy communication style can make it easier to deal with conflict, and build a stronger and healthier partnership. We often hear how important communication is, but not what it is and how we can use good communication in our relationships.
By definition, communication is the transfer of information from one place to another. In relationships, communication allows you to explain what you are experiencing and what your needs are. The act of communicating not only helps to meet your needs, but it also helps you to be connected in your relationship.
To communicate clearly and with intention in a relationship, talk to one another. No matter how well you know and love each other, you cannot read your partner’s mind. We need to communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings that may cause hurt, anger, resentment or confusion.
It takes two people to have a relationship and each person has different communication styles and needs. Couples need to find a way of communicating that suits their relationship. Healthy communication styles require practice and hard work. Active listening is just as important of a role in healthy communication as effective delivery.
Couples spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort in hopes to better improve their ability to communicate with their partners. Countless works have been written with various approaches to help communication. While there are no “secrets” to communication, there are tips and tricks. In an article written by Robert Leahy PhD, we learn 10 ways to be more easily heard with our partners.
1. Pick the Right Time
Sometimes you think you need to be heard the minute you have a thought or feelings. But your partner might be wrapped up in something else at the moment – the game, fixing dinner, trying to go to sleep, working on something, or just not in the right mood right now. Use your experience to tell you what is definitely not the right time – for example, “big process discussions” are seldom helpful right before bed – or the minute your partner walks in the door. If you start talking – and he or she isn’t listening – then ask, “Is there a better time to talk?” And, if you are the listener, play fair – give your partner a reasonable alternative. Don’t use sarcasm or stonewalling.
2. Edit it Down
Many times you start talking and you just get carried away. Your partner is losing interest, drifting off, his third eyeball is rolling into his cortex. Nothing is getting through. Ok. Maybe you need to edit what you say. Try to limit your comments to relatively clear and short sentences. Pause, ask for feedback, wait or your partner. Don’t get on a soap box and hold the floor. Make it more give and take. Think about what is essential and try to focus on that. One way of editing it down is to agree with your partner that there might be a reasonable period to spend on the topic. For example, “Can we spend about 10 minutes talking about this?” That helps you focus on the essentials and gives your listener a reasonable time-frame.
3. Pause and Ask for Feedback
Sometimes as a speaker, you will go on and on, without pausing. Perhaps you think that you need to stay on your topic so that everything is heard – or you fear that your partner will jump in and take the floor and you won’t ever get a chance to speak again. Slow it down, edit it down, and stop and ask for feedback.
4. Don’t Catastrophize
Sometimes we think that the only way to get heard is to make everything sound awful. Try to keep things in perspective, try to stay with the facts, and try to keep things from unraveling.
5. Don’t Attack
Your listener is not likely to be a good audience if your discussion is a series of attacks and criticisms. Name calling or over-generalizing is going to be a turn-off. This doesn’t mean you can’t get your point across and assert yourself. It simply means that you need to communicate in a way that is not has hostie.
6. Let Your Partner Know If You Want To Solve Problems Or Share Feelings
Sometimes we just want to vent our feelings, and have a sympathetic ear from our partner. That’s okay, but your partner needs to know where you are going with it. As you spend more time validating and listening and supporting, you may find that the people you are helping are more willing to hear rationality and problem solving when it is time to get to it.
7. Listening Is Not Agreeing
Sometimes we have the belief that the listener should agree with everything we say and be just as upset as we are. Wrong. Listening is hearing, understanding, reflecting, and processing information. We all need to accept the differences that make us unique. When you talk to someone who understands you and cares about your feelings – but doesn’t agree with your interpretation of evens – it opens your mind to the fact that there is more than one way to think about things.
8. Respect Advice
If you are turning to your partner for support and advice you are likely to get feedback – probably some advice. Maybe the advice is not helpful, maybe its irrational. But if you want to be heard, you have to be willing to respect the advice-giver. You don’t have to like or take the advice. Think of advice or feedback as information – take it or leave it.
9. If You Describe A Problem, Describe A Solution Too
It makes sense some of the time to describe potential solutions if you describe potential problems. Your solution doesn’t have to be an order to do something. It can be tentative, reasonable, one of several possibilities. In fact, if you begin thinking of the problem as something to solve, you might begin feeling more empowered.
10. Validate the Validator
One of the most helpful things that you can do as a speaker is to support the person who is supporting you. Think about it from their point of view. Why not turn around and thank them for spending their time hearing you? Thank them for caring enough to listen and support you. Validate the validator.