Tips on practicing good communication
Staff Therapist Wanda Sevey, MDiv, LFT is skilled at helping individuals, couples, and families with communication and relationship skill building; LGBT issues; reducing and coping with stress; sex issues for couples and individuals;recovery from affairs; and anxiety and depression.
“They taught us how to square dance in school but they never bothered to teach us how to communicate with someone we love.”
If you are like this frustrated client, you have probably been living with communication problems in your relationship for a very long time. Most couples tolerate moderate communication problems until conflict evolves to a point that neither of you can stand it anymore. Many partners put off getting help because they think it should be something you can solve yourselves. The truth is that relationships take study. And communication is not easy – it takes practice.
Part of the challenge with communication in relationships is that we think that, because we love someone, communication with that person should be easy. However, recent research* indicates that being in a close relationship with someone actually increases the likelihood of miscommunication between the two of you. When we are close to someone we assume that our partner understands us and that we, naturally, understand them. After all, you love each other, and shouldn’t the one you love understand you (almost) completely? When we make the assumption that communication is easy, we actually stop putting effort into communicating with these close partners. Much less effort is put into communication with a partner as it is with someone who we don’t know as well. With our partners, we relax our effort and ability to take in someone else’s perspective and we suspend careful listening. That’s when the miscommunication starts and conflict escalates.
It takes perseverance and patience to really understand and be understood by a partner over the long haul. The following tips will help, but remember to be patient as you use them. Good communication takes practice.
- Be Careful of Mind Reading: When we know someone well we assume we know the motives and meaning behind their words. Most of the time we don’t even realize we are making assumptions until the argument based on misunderstanding has already started.
- Get Curious, Not Furious: When you get angry at something your partner has said please slow yourself down and ask a question to clarify what they mean. Get curious about the meaning of the message instead of getting furious.
- Slow Down and Take Turns Speaking and Listening: It will feel strange but when take turns being the speaker and listener in a conversation you will listen more carefully and understand each other more. When it is your turn to speak only say a couple sentences. Then wait for your partner to repeat it back to you before you continue. When it is your turn to listen try to put yourself on the back burner so you can focus on your partner’s message instead of your own concerns. Be sure to switch the speaker-listener role frequently.
- Hang in there with each other: Communication takes time and practice.
A poet once said, “We think communication is easy but it’s a miracle it happens at all!” It’s really not a miracle, but it is a skill that can be learned and improved and one that will bring you closer to one another.
Staff Therapist Wanda Sevey, MDiv, LFT is skilled at helping individuals, couples, and families with communication and relationship skill building; LGBT issues; reducing and coping with stress; sex issues for couples and individuals;recovery from affairs; and anxiety and depression. Interested in therapy with Wanda? Request an appointment today.