Communication is tricky business. Communication is the primary reason any person calls me asking for help in couples or relationship counseling. We don’t talk, they say. Or we only argue. Or we don’t know how to talk about our feelings. Each time I hear this and I know the feeling. Because communication is at the core of all human interactions. Sometimes verbal, sometimes non verbal. Sometimes it’s what’s not said, rather than what is, the messages behind communication that really sticks. But at the end of the day, communication is really important!
When communication goes awry in relationships. There tends to be one consistent pattern. A person, or both people are reacting and not responding to their partners. When we react, we come from a place of fear, and often trigger our partner’s insecurities’. When we respond, we affirm our partners bid for connection, we allow insight and conversation and even vulnerability. All of this builds stronger foundation, and increased connection.
So next time you catch yourself in the midst of the same old pattern of conflict and communication, try these 3 things instead:
Pause: Before you do or say anything, take a moment to pause. Take a minute to really hear what your partner has said, listen to the words they use and the tone they are speaking in. Take a moment to pause and notice how your feel when your partner speaks. Do you notice yourself feeling excited, tense or anxious. These are clues to what is going on for us or in the conversation. Use this time to take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths to clear out any negative energy and allow for clarity.
Reflect: Now that you have taken a moment to pause, reflect on what your partner has just said. Consider what their words and tone mean to you, and try to identify what you need from them. Use this time to really understand how your partner is feeling. Use this to notice if your partner holds anxiety or tension in their communication. Does this communication trigger from a deeper emotion? Is your partner expressing their needs to you?
Respond: Now is the time to actually respond. If you have followed the previous two steps, you will likely be confident in your response, be controlled and measured and have the ability to respond with empathy and compassion. You will also likely to be able to respond with a clearer understanding of how you feel, what your partner’s needs are and what you need from the communication pattern.
Communication can be made much easier over time with these simple steps. And if you find pitfalls along the way, seek out a qualified relationship counseling to help guide the process.