Tools For A Healthy Relationship | Communication 101
When you argue with your partner, have you ever noticed how each person is either talking over the other, amplifying their voice, or strategically devising a lethal rebuttal? No one can quite trigger our defenses and a deep need of being seen, heard, and validated like our husbands, wives, and significant others. While some frustrated couples feel that such occurrences are the beginning of the end, they are actually a normal and virtually inevitable process of relationship.
Now, while getting stuck in cyclical patterns and fruitless arguments may be ‘normal,’ they hardly help you and your partner grow deeper in intimacy and connection. In our desperate need to be heard, to speak our truth, we can’t possibly hear our partner. Without a fresh approach, this continued path can easily lead to resentment, isolation, and breakup. To transcend this stage of your relationship, it helps to have a neutral and skilled therapist to teach you both to identify your blind spots, those unconscious patterns and behaviors that keep each of you from relating with kindness, compassion, and love.
Here are a few communication tips and an exercise to begin the process of relating differently. Each step – no matter how small – we take in a new direction breaks the momentum of rutted patterns and old ways of relating.
Tip 1. Avoid black and white language
Never say “never or always.” First of all, nobody does something all the time, and stating such is not only unfair; it is a surefire way to put your partner on the defensive. You sound silly and they are enraged. This does not create a fertile ground for listening or being heard.
Tip 2. Do not assume anything
Not only does assuming reek of arrogance, it steals any chance for mystery and excitement in your relationship. Just because you have been with your partner a long time does not mean you can possibly define the infinite textures of their thoughts, believes, hopes and dreams. Plus, people are fluid, we evolve. Rather than assume, check it out with your partner. When practiced regularly and consciously, this simple tip alone can greatly alter your communication experience.
This is a great exercise to cultivate listening skills essential to good communication. At first, only practice this for a minute or two. Later, when your skills develop, you and your partner can practice this for longer periods of time.
The next time your partner tells you they are upset, repeat back to them what you think you heard them say (rather than serving them your defense). Then, let them correct you. They can tell you if you got a piece or all of it right or wrong. It’s surprising how often we don’t hear our partner or get the most important parts totally wrong.
Try it! It is a very revealing and helpful exercise!