Intentional or not, every interaction we have with another person is about communication. We're almost constantly communicating with our body, tone, words and facial expressions.
If you want a healthy relationship that lasts over time, learning to communicate effectively using solid communication skills is essential.
Communicating poorly is one of the greatest predictors of a break up (or divorce).
So if you want to stay together focusing energy on improving your communication skills is essential. Today we'll outline two critical communication skills that if practiced, will dramatically enhance your understanding of each other.
1. Self-awareness and reflective listening
Knowing if you tend to a react or reflect can help you shift the way you do conflict.
Reactors usually respond to information immediately and interrupt quickly.
Reflectors more often take time to stop and consider what's being said, before responding.
Imagine how different your conflict patterns might be if both of you reflected before getting defensive or jumping to assumptions. Your conversations will be more meaningful the more you can shift this pattern.
Here's an example:
Partner’s phrase: “This argument comes up every time we see your parents…”
Reactor:“What are you saying?! It doesn’t! You don’t even know what you are talking about!"
Reflector: Pause. “I think I get where you are coming from. Can you tell me more?”
Spend the next 48 hours noticing which contexts and situations you default to reaction instead of reflection. The more you collect data on your patterns the more awareness you have to work with as you attempt to change them.
2. Respond to the meaning rather than the content
So often in an argument we respond to the content of a statement instead of the meaning underneath. We get hooked by one piece of information and fail to see the bigger picture.
Usually this leads the whole conversation off track. Instead of making progress we wind around details and unimportant stories often leaving us confused or making the conflict last much longer than necessary.
Instead of getting hooked, try to identify the core meaning in the messages your partner is sending. Filter through the less important information, stories, facts, or analogies and focus on finding the core meaning.
Here are a couple examples:
Partner: “I see you flirting with other people! Why do you act that way?!”
Possible core meanings:
- I really like our relationship and I'm afraid it could end.
- I am feeling insecure right now.
- I want more fully present time with you, please don't get distracted by others.
- I miss flirting with you and want more playfulness or romance in our relationship.
Partner: “You never help around the house! I feel like I'm your maid!”
Possible core meanings:
- I need more support from you.
- I want recognition and appreciation for the work I do.
- Mutuality and equality are core values of mine. Do they matter to you?
- Does it matter to you that I'm frustrated?
Give yourself time to work on this, it doesn't always come easily. But with practice you'll feel more confident in this practice and your conflicts will resolve more efficiently.
I created a toolkit that could be useful as you try to implement this at home. Enter your information below and I'll send you the Compassionate Communication Toolkit (and you'll get access to a bunch of other great tools