Communication is essentially the sending and receiving of messages between people. While it sounds like a really simple thing to do most couples I work with get it wrong and this often forms the basis for relationship problems. When we speak to each other, there are a number of different signals that we are giving and receiving, including the words spoken, the tone used and the facial and body language expressed.
A strong relationship is made up of many things but despite this, if the communication is not effective, then at times of stress or when there are important issues to discuss it can all fall apart due to mixed messages. Improve your communication and you will undoubtedly improve your relationship and often other parts of your life too.
The following points can help you to communicate effectively
Listen and don’t interrupt
Alright so we all know this, but most people are listening with one ear and busy forming their response at the same time. This means that in all likelihood you are missing vital parts of the message being sent. The likely results are that you miss the message and respond inappropriately, which then goes back and forth and generally results in a disagreement or at best a result that one person isn’t pleased with. Often a fight erupts as you both speak over each other and nothing is solved as you didn’t actually hear what the other person was trying to say.
To fix this, simply remain silent. Really pay attention to what the other person is saying and then when you are sure of the message intended, respond. Take turns and be respectful of what your partner is trying to say even though you may not agree.
Stay on topic
Often when couples fight they start discussing one issue and then throw in another and another. Eventually nobody really knows what they are fighting about. This is often used to win the argument or deflect attention from the problem raised.
Whatever issue is up for discussion, stick with it and don’t move to another topic until it has been resolved. If your partner brings up a different subject, gently remind them that you are speaking about the current topic and can discuss the issue they have raised afterwards if they would like to.
Pay attention to body language
Did you know that most of our communication is believed to be through body language, facial expression and tone, not through the words themselves? That’s one of the reasons text messages cause so many fights amongst couples (and friends). Often a message is interpreted as a negative communication when it wasn’t intended that way, because so many important factors are missing from the message being sent.
When you talk to your partner about a problem, pay attention to the body language, facial expressions and tone of both you and your partner. Make sure you keep your tone even and calm. This alone can sometimes stop an argument from erupting. If your tone is rising, you may as well stop talking because it just became less effective communication.
Watch what messages you are sending through your facial expressions. If you aren’t angry make sure your facial expressions reflect this.
Again, with your body language, make sure it is sending the same message as the words you are using. Stay turned towards your partner, keep your body relaxed and stay on the same level physically. This is especially important for men, as women may at times view a strong, tense stance as threatening.
Maintain Physical Contact
If possible try and have some physical contact with your partner when you are talking about something serious, as it can help to maintain a link between you and keep the discussion calm. Hold hands or put a hand on the others arm or knee gently. It’s much harder to argue when you are showing some form of affection.
Use a ‘Checkout’ Statement
Often the message we think we are sending is not clear to the other person and they assume a different message. It is clear in your head but not necessarily clear to your partner what you are trying to say. Mixed messages fly back and forth and you may be arguing over nothing at all.
Use a ‘checkout’ statement. This is a really important aspect of communication. If your partner says something that you don’t agree with, seems hurtful or you are just not sure of – ask them. A lot of the time just doing this can allow your partner to clarify the message and you are then responding to the right message. To do this, say something like: “So what you are saying is that….”? Or “what I am hearing you say is ….”. Use your own words to describe what you have heard them say. Your partner can then agree with the statement you have made or state that is not what they are trying to convey and restate their message.
This sounds really simple but is a really effective way of reducing incorrect messages and improving communication.
Try and see each others point of view
We all have our own perceptions of how life should be based on our own beliefs and experiences. That doesn’t mean it is always right for your partner.
If you are on opposing sides of a discussion, try and listen to what it means to your partner. Try and imagine yourself in their position. How would you feel? Having empathy and being able to accept that your partners feelings and thoughts are valid even if they are different to yours can go a long way to solving disputes. Ask them to explain what it means to them. You don’t always need to agree, but you can accept each others point of view and work together from there.
In arguments you may often find that you are defending your actions and explaining why. This is often an attempt to get the other person to see the reason and then leave the discussion alone.
If you have done something (or not done something) which has upset your partner, rather than trying to defend it, accept responsibility. Say sorry. This sounds easy but many people struggle with it. It can go a long way to stopping an argument, calming a situation and keeping harmony in your relationship. You can always explain your actions but an apology or acceptance of responsibility first helps.
Learn to compromise
Every issue that you come across with your partner does not have just a two-sided component. You don’t need to stick with your point just because it was yours!
If you disagree on an issue, work together as a team to resolve it effectively. Discuss it and make sure you understand the issue. Work out what it means to your partner, express what it means to you, and then work out the outcomes of each option. Once you have all of the information it will become clear if there is an easy option. If there isn’t, then you need to work on a compromise. Work together to try and find a solution that works for both of you. This isn’t about winning or losing but putting the relationship first and finding the best outcome for it.
At times you may find that a discussion is starting to get heated or may just be going around in circles.
If this happens, take time-out. State to your partner that you need a break from the conversation and will come back to it later (don’t just run out). Take the time to calm down and if necessary go for a walk or do another activity until you are ready to address the issue again. Make sure you do return to the subject. A healthy relationship is one that is able to work through important issues and find a resolution.
If you find that you are unable to resolve issues effectively, don’t leave them as they have a tendency to build over time. The best time to get help for your relationship is when there are small problems. These can be easily addressed with some help.
If you would like to learn more about learning good communication skills, give me a call or if you prefer, make an appointment through the online booking option. Good luck and let me know if you found this helpful.
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