Communication is the bedrock of relationships. But when two people with different backgrounds, perspectives and concerns get together, there are many things that can go wrong along the way. In a perfect world, we would all learn early that “give and take” communication can be much more productive than trying to unilaterally stake claims without taking others’ feedback into consideration. Diplomacy is a skill that is well worth learning. The need for diplomacy isn’t important only in international relations; it’s also highly valuable in “domestic relations,” including your own personal, nearest and dearest relationships.
These simple communication tips are designed to help you.
Use collaborative language and recognize that when the two of you are in a room, there’s a third entity present – the relationship. What you both may think is “best” for yourselves may not reflect what is “best” for the relationship.
If there’s a problem that you are trying to solve, communicate your ideas for solutions with tentativeness. Maybe something like, “Well, perhaps we could try…” Or “What if I did . . . and you did . . .” Or, maybe even better yet, “I’m stuck. What do you think we need to do next?”
Keep the communication flowing, be willing to listen and make sure you really understand the message your partner is sending. And don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know.
Don’t interrupt! Stay focused, attentive, and connected. Even if you particularly dislike, or simply don’t agree with what is being said, do not interrupt. Hang in there and keep your focus on the overarching goal of honest communication.
Reflect back to your partner what you think your partner is saying – check in with your partner to make sure you are getting the overall message, not just the words. Check back in with your partner, “What I hear you saying is…” “If I understand you correctly….” This lets your partner know that you really care about the message being conveyed and that you are interested in making sure you heard and understood accurately. It also helps you empathize with your partner’s perspective. It’s amazing how different a relationship can look to two different people!
You might be surprised to learn that looking for compromise is a pitfall;
Compromise produces two losers. Compromise is a “lose-lose solution” for the couple that “leaves both partners feeling compromised.” A win-win solution, by contrast, occurs when her-way meets his-way and creates an our-way.
When communicating with your partner, make a concerted effort to avoid personal criticism. This includes refraining from put-downs, insults and negative body language, such as eye-rolling. As we all know, criticism makes people feel defensive, among other things. This significantly inhibits the listening process and can lead to further escalation of anger and hurt feelings.
When something is bothering you, bring it up gently and without blame. Beware of the tone used when communicating problems. A mutually respectful tone – one that is neither passive nor aggressive – goes a long way in starting a productive dialogue.
Seek First to Understand and to be Understood. This is one of my favorite approaches and really should be used as a mantra in all discussions, whether with spouses, other family members or friends. When in conflict, our default as human beings is often to focus on our desire to be understood. How many times have you heard, “you just don’t understand what I’m saying!” Of course, healthy relationships do involve understanding one another, but rather than emphasizing your own desire to be heard, try changing your focus to putting attention on understanding the other. This can really shift the relational dynamic and pave the way for more open and fresh communication.
Have you noticed that a rhetorical question, such as “do you ever stop talking and listen?” don’t seem to initiate healthy dialogue? Sure, they may feel good to say in the moment, as you release some pent up frustration or anger. But, in the long run, it doesn’t contribute to resolutions. Instead, ask open-ended questions when you have concerns. For example, you may say to your spouse, “I could use more help with taking out the trash; do you have any ideas for how we can accomplish this?”
Stay Calm, try to keep discussions as calm as possible. If things start to escalate, take a break and re-visit when the two of you feel less emotionally charged. Be mindful of your self-talk; are you saying things to yourself that keep you relatively calm or are you fueling the flames of emotional distress?
Accept Influence from the Other:
Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and be willing to go with their perspective and suggestions. A marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. Accordingly, be mindful of the gender dynamics in your relationship that may foster or inhibit the ability to influence one another.
Most importantly, In any good relationship, each person will feel that they are valued and respected for who they are. When communicating, it can be helpful to identify what you appreciate about the other and state those things. Successful relationships make 5 times as many positive statements as negative ones when discussing problems. Sharing appreciations contributes to a variety of positive feelings and people simply think and communicate better when they’re feeling good about themselves.
By: Umaru Maryam Hadejia