We often hear that communication can make or break a relationship, but if we’re really honest, communication isn’t always that easy. In fact, it can be down right difficult when you consider that we often communicate ineffectively, or work with our partner in unhealthy ways to get what we want.
If you’re stuck and ‘sitting down and talking about it’ is doing more damage than good, then these 5 steps will show you how to approach your partner so that you both come out of a situation feeling validated and understood.
- Actively listen to them
This is not just a principle listed in relationship how-to guides that are designed to make your partner feel guilty for their lack of listening skills. A key aspect of any communication is the ability to listen to each other; not just sitting and drifting in and out of consciousness as they ramble, and not simply humouring your partner as they list off their complaints and expectations.
Active listening means you need to engage with your partner’s conversation, maintaining eye contact and showing physical signs that you are actually interested in what they are saying. You won’t always agree with your spouse, and sometimes you won’t understand them- but the principle stays the same. By engaging in active listening you are showing your partner that they are valued, and this is a cornerstone for any healthy relationship.
- Use ‘I’ statements
Let’s be clear, you are responsible for your own feelings and emotional responses. That means that no matter how your partner speaks or behaves, they are not the causation of your own anger or frustration. Your feelings are always warranted and valid, but blaming your partner for them is not.
When you communicate your frustrations with your partner, try rephrasing the statement, “You made me feel angry when you did this,” with, “When you did this, I felt angry.” This frames the conversation so both of you are on equal footing, and neither of you feel like the villain.
- Ask open- ended questions
If your partner is not opening up, or you struggle to make conversation, ask open- ended questions that allow them to elaborate. For instance, instead of saying, “You seemed angry when you got home from work,” you can rephrase this to, “Tell me about work today,” and “How did you feel when you got home from work?”
Open-ended questions take away your assumptions, and give your partner the opportunity to share in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Using them is far more effective than coming out with blatant statements or questions that cause a conversation to escalate, or speaking out so strongly that your partner shuts down in response.
- Passive aggressive tendencies have to go
We’ve all be in the position where we simply expect our loved one to behave in a certain way, or become frustrated when they don’t give us the validation we want. Passive aggressive tendencies come out when we imply feelings, try to pressure our partner into doing something without asking, seek to make them feel guilty, or act in a certain way without explanation.
Irrespective of how justified you feel in your emotions and expectations, your passive aggressive tendencies have to go. Bin them, and make your questions and expectations clear to your partner verbally. If you need them to do something, don’t just sit there and stew- ask! A healthy relationship does not run on guilt and frustration, it functions based on mutual understanding and an appreciation for the feelings of the other person.
- Keep your communication ‘safe’
Both you and your partner need to know that any communication you have is safe, and will not be misconstrued, shared, or taken advantage of. As you go to communicate with your partner, you need to work through any assumptions of guilt and throw away a ‘victim’ mentality. You need to be willing to share your own thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, and allow your partner to do the same
As you exit a conversation, both of you need to protect what you have just discussed. Avoid gossip, and never talk about your partner negatively to others. Remember- conflict stays off social media! Don’t air your dirty laundry for the world to see. If you are still frustrated, sit down and talk about it again. And if your relationship still has unresolved issues, see a couple’s counsellor so your conversation is mediated. Protect your relationship diligently, and fight for it by making sure your partner knows conversations and experiences are safe with you.
Do you struggle to communicate effectively in your couple relationship? Here’s what you need to do: contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.