Communication with your spouse or partner isn’t always easy. Today’s busy life styles have created shorter periods of time to sit and talk. Much of our communication is through short conversations or even texts which can leave out details. We are communicating more by phone and e-mail which can be informative but we miss out on body language and sometimes mis-perceive tone and intention. If you have concerns about communication, maybe that you are not being heard or if you are worried that you are arguing too much here are a few tips:
Take time to talk and really listen. Find time to be together alone, no TV, No phone, No pressing engagement, No multitasking. Relationships need to be maintained. This takes a bit of work. Think about what you want to say, and then say it the right way. Use I statements. I need… I feel… Not– you did this or you said this. You statements sound blaming. If you love to write you may want to take the time to write a letter to your partner and give it to him or her as a way to get things started.
Listen, really listen. There is no communication if one person is speaking but the other didn’t really hear or understand. This may sound silly but repeat back what was just said to you. It lets them know you heard them and can be an indication of empathy. It feels good to really be heard.
Stay Focused. It’s tempting to bring up other problems or past incidents but this will only complicate an already difficult issue. Stick to one problem at a time and you will make more headway.
Try not to blame or judge. This can be difficult if you are trying to resolve a conflict. If you hear your partner becoming defensive, chances are your previous statement was judgmental or was perceived that way.
Try to see their point of view. We spend most of our time in conflict trying to be heard or to make our point. Ironically, if both people do that then neither person feels heard and it is doubtful the argument will get resolved. If you try to see your partner’s side it is more likely he or she will listen to your side.
If the conversation starts getting heated or argumentative and blaming, take a break. Very little good can come from raised voices or blaming, much less screaming and yelling. Those conversations usually lead to unresolved problems and too many unresolved problems can greatly weaken a relationship. While you’re taking a break, try to see what you did to escalate the conversation. Then communicate that to your partner, and start over.
These tips are the cornerstone of good communication. They can be found in almost every book on communication. Many of us have either learned them or at least heard them before; however, I think they bear repeating, as they really do work. Often we learn skills but don’t use them. After many years as a therapist I can state that if you practice these simple communication skills, it will decrease the blame and defensiveness in your conflicts and improve your relationship.
**Finally, if you are concerned you are nearing a breaking point or a break-up, seek out professional help. These tips can be helpful but if you are very unhappy a trained professional can teach the skills you both need to enjoy your relationship again.