Every relationship will meet that point in the road where disagreements happen more frequently than not (especially if you’re married). And while everyone is always so sure that many relationship issues can be solved if you and your partner communicated better, no one is able to tell you exactly what better communication looks like. So, in the face of a dispute with the one you love you think, ‘okay, let’s try to solve this by communicating. Everyone is suggesting it.’ Problem is, your partner is defending his/her point of view so passionately that you can see veins in the neck. This leads to you feeling attacked and a little upset that they’re this upset and the return to yelling (so you’re able to get a word in edgewise) wins out.
Screaming and yelling during disagreements in your relationship is a form of communicating. Unfortunately, it is not the form of communication that everyone is directing you to (or necessarily the healthiest). Like most things, communication has a right and wrong way to be accomplished, and oftentimes, we incorrectly communicate with the ones we love because we expect more from them.
Good communication is important because it shapes the relationships we have with our partners, children, family and friends. It helps us be better understood, receive support, organize our lives and make decisions. So, what is really meant when people close to you hear/see the problems you’re facing and say, ‘you guys need to communicate better’?
Here’s what they mean:
- Think about what you want to say and What you are feeling when you say it
Be honest. When you are seething mad, or upset with someone do you really care what they have to say? The easiest things to do in an argument is to let your mouth run free. It is so much harder to put a leash on certain words and feelings when you are upset. The trick is to find a place of silence and really get in your head. Tap into your emotions without sharing them (just yet) with your partner. And if you are feeling hurt, say that. Agree to disagree but then agree that both of you should revisit the conversation when emotions are not running as high. When you do decide to revisit the conversation you should have a more controlled reaction because you’ve had time to calm down.
- Be Clear
This does not mean beating a dead horse over the head, or speaking to your partner is a tone of voice that can be construed as a form of belittling. Clearly identify the issue you have with certain actions and gauge how you two can keep the instances from happening again, then close the topic. There’s no need for your partner to feel like he/she has been apologizing over and over, all day or night because even though you two have come to terms about the issue, you still feel the need to verify the agreed upon preventative measures. Stop it. Allow the resolution to serve as a resolution.
- Share the positive
Communicating with your partner when you are upset can be a tennis match of negative comments. No one wants to keep the negativity on their side of the court, so they hurl it back to the other side. It is better to diffuse hostility towards negative comments with a few positive comments. Sure you hate when he leaves the toilet seat up, or puts “unscraped” plates in the sink but thankfully his aim is impeccable enough that you aren’t stepping in urine, or he liked your cooking enough that he wanted to show you how much of it he ate by leaving tiny morsels as a reminder. Sometimes silly (but positive) comments like these can spark a laugh and deter an argument, and they serve as a perfect segue into making a request for change. As well, taking the time to share his/her good attributes can serve as positive reinforcements towards your partners desire to add value to your life.
- Watch What You Don’t Say
A lot can be said without having ever opened your mouth. When you are engaging in a dispute you are watching the other person, just as they are watching you. Make sure your body language is not telling the other person a truth your mouth and thoughts do not wish to convey. Crossed arms can come across as being closed off to what is being said. Brow-furrowing, eye-rolling, lip-smacking (pretty much any hyphenated gestures) can come off as being oppositional to the other person which causes them to get defensive. And honestly, you couldn’t really be listening if you are engaged in these behaviors. For example, when smacking your lips in response to something being said during a disagreement, your mind instantly goes into defense mode and starts preparing a rebuttal. If you’re preparing rebuttals, and your partner is explaining, who’s doing the listening? Instead, if something is being said that you do not agree with then jot it down, bookmark the comment and return to it once the other person feels like they’ve had a chance to explain their side.
For the most part you should keep a relaxed posture with your arms and legs uncrossed so as to appear open to what is being said. Face the person, keep level (and comfortable) eye contact to avoid looking up or down on the other person, and avoid distracting behaviors such as busying yourself with nearby mail, or tapping your feet or fingers. Give the other person your undivided attention and expect the same.
- Listen and Engage
Not all lack of communication comes in the face of arguments. Sometimes, people fail to interact with others around them effectively which can lead to the other person(s) feeling like they aren’t as important, or that they should seek the compassionate ear or logic they seek elsewhere. We are all guilty, at some point, of being too busy to discuss certain matters with someone you love. The key is to let them know that you do care about what they have to say and would love to hear about the topics when you can devote uninterrupted time. Of course, use of this method will only go so far before it becomes off-putting. In which case, you will have to carve out some time to listen to what they have to say and be prepared to give relevant feedback.
There you have it. Hopefully, the year of 2015 will boast that we’ve all become just a little better at communicating in our relationships.