Yelling, hurtful digs, name calling, defensiveness, sharp tongues, disrespect, and bringing up past issues are a few of the strategies couples use to communicate. Of course, almost all the time, this strategy creates more harm than good.
“Communication” defined, is “to exchange information and connection between people.” Connection is intimacy. True communication is the desire to be heard and be understood. “Seek first to understand; then to be understood”. We have a great need for this, says author Stephen Covey.
Plato the great philosopher said, “Understanding is deeper than knowledge”
There are many people who know you, but there are very few who understand you.” Most often we feel “filled-up” when we talk to someone who really “gets us”; who understands us. It’s a pretty good feeling! When we don’t feel that way, we tend to feel like the person hasn’t heard our heart – not a good feeling.
So, how can couples communicate so that they both feel respected, valued and heard?
That’s a very tall order but with some effective strategies and knowledge, this tall order can be accomplished.
Initially let’s look at intention.
Intention is one of the keys to creating purpose in talking with your partner. Ask yourself, “what do I want my partner to “get”? Think about it in a simple sentence and then add the “essence” of your feelings.
An example might be, “I want my partner to understand that I am lonely, and I don’t know how to handle it.” Also, outcome is an expectation. Expectations are often dangerous as they set you up for perhaps an unfavourable outcome. Most of us have an agenda before we communicate. There are many wrong ways to communicate. It all began as wee people in our childhoods. Some of us were raised in co-dependent families where being heard was not an option. It was in fact, discouraged. We may have wanted to share an idea or an opinion, only to be told to “be quiet” or told that our ideas were not valuable or even dumb or stupid; maybe even told to “shut-up”.
Or, we are quick to react, instead of taking a moment to respond in a respectful manner. We just blurt out our negative feelings. This is not adult communication, this is assignation! If the subject is emotionally flooding for you or your partner, take a time out, but always return to the issue within one day.
Also, if we had heard the message growing up or in relationships, ‘I would like to talk to you”, or, “We need to “talk’, that meant that something bad was about to happen or be brought forward and we were in some sort of trouble and we’d be punished. When we hear our partner says similar words or phrases, we are triggered or reminded of our negative past experiences and we either withdraw or brace ourselves for the worst.
Now add this idea … lean in to the other.
This sets the stage of listening with the intent to understand. It demonstrates love. Wait for the other to complete their thoughts. We too often interrupt and rush in to either defend or prematurely share our thoughts often with anger.
One way is to ask if it’s a good time to talk about something. If it’s a delicate matter, then preface the
conversation with, “This is difficult for me to talk about …and… I believe it’s necessary to talk about”. Share your thoughts in a calm, clear manner. Use facial expressions to convey the message you are feeling. Don’t confuse blaming with communicating. Of course, the old “I” statements are a good idea.
Saying, “You” statements come across as accusatory.
Check in with feeling words to see if you, as a listener are “hearing” the other. An example is, if a wife is talking about her frantically busy day and all the things she had to do, then an appropriate response from you might be, “Wow, it sounds like you are totally overwhelmed!”. You don’t need to offer suggestions unless you inquire firstly. She may just want to talk; not fix; or she may want to talk and fix.
Validate first – your feelings can come later. The most important thing when you are entering into a conversation is that you understand your partner and have empathy.
Validate your partner.
Look very carefully at the “messages” behind the language and conversation.
Read and attune.
So, put down your ego and your sword. Practice intention. Good communication means the intention to understand and to be understood. It is not defensive and it is certainly not a game. It is intimate connection. So, start with love, and you will have a head start to awesome real, intimate and loving communication.