By: Sharon Burge, RN, MA, LCPC, RDDP
As a therapist I often hear from my clients; “we just don’t know how to communicate”. Communication happens every day and in many forms. Effective communication however is a two way process and can take effort and patience. For many couples ineffective communication can become a source of frustration and conflict.
Below are a few tips to help and you and your partner find the path to better communication.
Pick the right time to communicate. There is no perfect time and place for communication, but the process will go much easier if you can pick a time with minimal distractions. Couples with good communication have gotten in the habit of setting aside regular time each day to talk and connect.
Start softly to be heard. How you begin a conversation can be an indication of how the conversation will end. If you begin in a harsh or critical manner, the entire conversation may continue in that manner and feel unproductive. Try to take a positive approach. This will increase the likelihood that the listener will be more receptive to what you have to say.
Use “I” statements. Using “I” statements helps the speaker to express their own thoughts and feelings. Avoid attacks or verbal finger pointing as these can trigger defenses or counter attacks; such as “You never do anything around here!” Instead try, “I am feeling very overwhelmed lately and could really use some help.”
Be concise and stick to a single point. I often see couples let frustrations build and when they finally express those frustrations, they throw out every complaint for the last 10 years. When this occurs the listener only feels lost and overwhelmed with the conversation and is likely to become combative or defensive.
Stop and Listen. Often people are so focused on what they want to say they forget to stop and really listen to their partner. Communication is a two way process. Take time to hear your partner’s point of view. Don’t make assumptions. If you are unclear about what they are trying to say, ask for clarification. Pay attention to nonverbal clues as these can also be telling.
Focus on solutions. Some communication is simply sharing feelings and ideas. Other times we are looking for a change. Stay focused on the here and now. Explore possible solutions with your partner. Often times our partner may have a different perspective and can bring new ideas for change.
Remember to be patient when communicating with others. Learning new ways to more effectively communicate will take time and practice but it’s worth the effort.