One of the most common issues couples and individuals come to see me about is that they feel they can’t “communicate” with others. They want to know “How can we talk to each other without losing our temper?” “How can I get my partner to listen to me?” “We get along great most days, but our arguments are so hurtful, what can we do?”
These couples are not abnormal, it’s a common issue that many couples experience throughout their time together. Communication is not a skill that we are usually taught in school or at home. No one really knows how to communicate well, unless they’ve studied it and/or worked hard to do a better job.
So instead of slinging mud and having a free for all when you and your partner disagree, I’d like to add some helpful tips.
- Use “I” statements. By talking about how you feel or felt, you are not accusing your partner of doing anything wrong. You’re just talking about you and hopefully your partner won’t get defensive and will want to help you feel better. Statements like: “I feel sad when you go away on a business trip for two weeks.” With this kind of statement the two of you can talk about the feelings and ways to help you feel better.
- Use positive statements. Instead of saying something like, “You’re always traveling for work and never with me.” You can say something like, “I love having you home and I’ll miss you.”
- Look for the good and praise it. Look for what your partner does well or what they do for you and then thank them for it. If your partner puts gas in your car each weekend, that’s a BIG deal!! Be sure to thank them in a meaningful way. Also, if you look for the good or bad, you’ll probably see it. Look for the good.
- When you hurt your partner’s feelings, empathize, be curious about them and see their point of view. No one wants to hurt their partner’s feelings, but it does happen. So when it happens be sure to apologize (even if their feelings don’t make sense) by saying something like: “I’m so sorry that I hurt you, I said it wrong.” Or “I’m sorry, you’re right. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.” Then be curious by saying something like, “What could I do differently next time so I don’t upset you?” or “What was that like for you? You look sad.” And then see it from your partner’s point of view by saying something like: “I can see how I sounded harsh. I’m sorry. I’ll watch my tone.” or “It makes sense that you’d feel hurt. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Those are four “easy” steps to better communication. Try these out before the next argument so you will have practiced them and can use these skills more intentionally next time there’s a disagreement. I know, it’s easier said than done to stay level headed when you’re in an argument. So practice together and keep the list handy. Remember you are together for a reason…you love each other. Treat each other with love.