Are you having difficulty communicating with your partner?
Do you avoid opening up and talking because you are afraid you will make things worse?
Do you get stuck in a communication pattern that leads to nowhere?
Not feeling understood by the person you love is hard. Difficulty in communication can make you feel drained, frustrated, and powerless. Instead of finding a different way to communicate, you may get stuck doing the same things, except only getting louder or more aggressive.1
Here are some simple ways to improve your communication today. It is the L-O-V-E dialogue.
1. Listen: Do more listening than talking.
When communication is ineffective, our automatic reaction is to talk more and get louder, thinking we must get our point through. But the more you talk, the more shut down your partner becomes. The better you make an argument, the more they seem to hate you. Maybe that’s why they say, “you can win an argument but lose the relationship.”
When communication is going nowhere, it is time to work on our listening skills, not our speaking skills.
One easy way to improve your listening is by reflecting a summary of what you’ve heard back to your partner and asking “have I got that right?” This helps you to fully understand what was communicated and make the other person feel truly heard.
2. Openness: Open up your heart and mind.
In order to be a good listener, you need to open up your heart and mind.
Let’s do a little exercise. Look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud, “NO!” “NO!” several times. That is what you and your partner are up against when you are not open to hearing each other out. Now say “YES!” “YES!” a few times. This is the attitude you want to have before having a conversation. Be ready to say yes and be open to your partner.
You may need to train yourself to listen without judgment, and take the position of curiosity. Instead of thinking of what you will say to ‘win’ the argument. Ask lots of questions to better understand your partner. Be careful not to hide criticisms or accusations in your questions.
3. Validate: Is an important part of listening.
Validating is a very important part of listening. You may find it hard to validate the other person especially when you don’t agree with what they are saying. There is nothing more painful than to feel invalidated after you have shared something very important to someone who is important to you. You can validate the emotions and experience of the other person even if their version of events differs from yours and you don’t agree with them. This will more likely influence them to be more open to hearing your version of events.
Example phrases: I get that. I can see how you would feel. I understand how that must have made you feel.
4. Express: It is important to feel like you can express your feelings.
It is important to feel that you can express your deepest feelings and hopes to your partner. This is possible when you have more experiences of your partner turning towards you, looking interested, and listening without judgment. If your experience of sharing your inner feelings is met with criticism, contempt, or lack of response, it is hard to trust your partner enough to open up. If you have fallen into a communication pattern where sharing your feelings openly feels unsafe, it may be a good indication that your relationship needs a tune-up before you drift too far apart.
With practice, we all can improve the way we communicate to our loved ones but a good couples therapist can also support you to communicate about difficult topics.
Call Mind Up and book an appointment today.