Many people don’t find their love relationship to be as easy as they expected (and hoped) it would be. One of the main reasons I’ve found is that people haven’t been taught how to communicate effectively.
I know it sounds pretty obvious, but what does it really mean to communicate effectively? I believe that effective communication makes you and your partner feel as if you are on the “same page” as if you are working through something together, without arguing, raising voices or drama. If you can communicate effectively, it really will make every other part of your relationship easier. So just for you, I’m putting together some really important and extremely helpful (in my humble opinion) tactics to improve that frustrating relationship!
1. Don’t Say “Why?”
When you are asking a question, never start with the word “why”. The word “why” naturally generates a defensive response from your partner. Think about the difference in how it feels to be questioned with, “Why did you do that?” vs. “Was there any particular reason you did it that way?” When communicating effectively, it is your responsibility to pay attention to how your words affect your partner. If you feel your partner getting defensive, you it is important to adapt your style and choose words to ask your questions with loving curiosity. Make your intention to truly understand where they are coming from, rather than starting with assumptions and accusations.
2. Don’t Say “You”
Regardless of what your partner did or didn’t do, if you get into the habit of identifying your frustrations by finger pointing, they will yet again inevitably feel defensive. You have to remember, that the point of communicating is not to prove a point, it is to make sure you both understand each other. It is important share your own experience using “I” statements so that your partner can understand how you feel and without feeling attacked. For example, how does it feel to hear, “You always leave your dishes in the sink and it is so annoying!” vs. “I find it really frustrating to come home to dishes in the sink. I feel a bit disrespected, as if it’s my responsibility to clean up after you.” Does one statement make you feel more open to continuing the conversation than the other?
3. Both of You Are “Right”
Let’s say you have an elephant, surrounded by 3 blind men. One man is touching the tail, another is touching the leg, the last is touching the trunk. They are all arguing about what an elephant is. The one at the tail is saying, No- it’s this little flimsy thing!” The one at the leg is saying, “No- it’s this big solid, tree trunk thing!” and the one at the trunk is saying, “No- it’s this big hose honker thing!” They are all arguing, trying to prove their own perspective is the correct one. But what do we realize when we look at this scenario? They are all right. Each of their perspectives is accurate, yet rather than going around and feeling what the other is feeling, they are choosing to stay where they are and try to prove their own point.
If you can approach every situation with the understanding that there are various perspectives and experiences and that can all exist simultaneously, than you are creating a space for both people’s opinions to be acceptable. When you are focused less on being “right” and more on understanding that both perspectives can be “right” in their own ways, you are creating a phenomenal foundation for healthy communication.
4. You are on the Same Team
If you haven’t yet noticed, the main points we’ve talked about so far are really focused on making sure that conversations don’t get oppositional. It is of the utmost importance that you and your partner don’t treat one another like opponents, EVER. You are on the same team in all circumstances. Even if you have different perspectives, approaches, experience feelings etc, it is important to realize it is OK and that it doesn’t make you adversaries. When you understand that you can be on the same team and have differences then you can choose to work through your differences together, rather than blame the other.
5. Your Emotions are Your Responsibility
If you ever catch yourself saying, “You make me feel like….”Think again. Yes, it is very possible that something your partner said or did can trigger an emotional response inside of you, but your emotions are yours and only yours. It is your job to tend to them, understand them, and soothe them. Don’t give your power away.
When you make someone else responsible for your emotions, not only will you have no sense of control over what goes on inside you, but they will never be able to keep you happy. I like to think of emotions on a scale from 1-10. If 1 is peaceful and calm and 10 is so extreme that you want to jump off a bridge, it is important to consistently check in to see where you are on the scale. If you are hanging out at a 7 all the time then obviously something small your partner says or does is going to trigger an extreme response, whereas if you are making efforts to keep yourself grounded at a 2 or 3 then, fewer things will throw you over the edge.
Sometimes it is even helpful to share this strategy with your partner so you can say, “I’m feeling like an 8 right now, let me go cool down a bit so I can talk to you properly when I find my way back down the scale.” It is of the utmost importance to communicate when you are in your most clear headed and grounded state. Otherwise you are likely going to end up causing more harm than good.
So in sum, try to remember your partner is your teammate, someone you love and want to understand fully and completely. The more you take responsibility for your emotions and how you communicate, the more likely you will be able to approach your partner from a place of loving curiosity and compassion, which will inevitably keep you both on the same team.
Good luck! 🙂