Relationship Communication Tips

Relationship Communication Tip #1: The Art of No Resistance

Relationship communication can become especially difficult when your partner makes a complaint to you about something you’ve done or haven’t done.  Most of us tense up and get ready to resist what’s coming at us.   So, for example, say someone in your life said this:  

Other:  “It really bothers me when you don’t take out the trash.  I asked you three times and you didn’t do it. “  

Think about what you’d normally do or say.  Likely you’ll get defensive or offer up excuses as to why this didn’t get done.  When this happens, it leaves the other person feeling invalidated, unheard and frustrated.  The a relationship, communication is most likely to fail – whether it escalates into an argument or leaves you both feeling powerless, hurt or disconnected.   

What if you could erase all this just by not resisting what’s being said to you?  What I mean by ‘no resistance’ is this:  

You:  “You know, you’re right. I didn’t take out the trash today. I didn’t do it last week either. In fact, I realize I often forget to take out the trash when you ask me. “  

This is not only accepting their complaint but even offering up other times when you haven’t honored their requests!  I know, I know. You’re thinking I’m crazy, right?  Why on earth would you even consider this?  You might be thinking,  “but what if their complaint isn’t even valid?”  Or, “Doesn’t that just add fuel to the fire?”  

Here’s the cold hard truth about other people’s complaints about us:  their complaints are, more often than not, valid (or at least in the ballpark of accurate).  Furthermore, instead of adding fuel to the fire, when the other person feels truly heard and validated, it opens up a space for real communication to happen about how to solve the problem.  It even has the opportunity to soften them up and remind them of times you have done what they’ve asked.  I promise I’ve tried this and it’s actually happened!    

So, I advise you to try this out one time.  You’ll be surprised by the results.  At the very least, you’ll be amused at the other person’s face when you say something like this. 

Relationship Communication Tip #2: Stop Talking When You're Upset!

When we are in a relationship, communication becomes more difficulty by intense emotions. Emotions are a signal to act – in fact the root meaning of the word emotion is not “to feel” but “to move.” Once we feel an intense emotion, it kicks in our adrenal system and we are in “fight or flight” mode. This is why in a relationship, communication is difficult when we’re angry, scared or hurt. We tend to say mean things, yell or hit (fight) or get totally flooded and want to withdraw (flight).

The problem with talking while we’re upset (unless it’s about something that has nothing to do with your partner),is that we do a lot of damage. We say mean things, yell louder and often get confused or frustrated. When we're upset, our pre-frontal cortex, the problem solve area of the brain, is compromised as stress toxins flood our body in preparation to fight or flee.

What to do instead in your relationship communication…

1. Recognize that you’re upset. Notice body cues – increasing heart rate, flushed face, nervous stomach. Notice flashes of past arguments or going “into your head” while s/he is talking to you.

2. If you’re in a conversation and become too upset to communicate effectively, say, “Wow, I’m noticing that I’m really upset right now. Can you give me a few minutes?” Say this as calmly as possible and if your partner is triggered by you leaving the room (or not talking), touch his or her arm lightly and say, "I will finish this conversation. I just need a few minutes to calm down." If you’re not in a conversation, but became upset with your partner, skip to Step 3.

3. Say to yourself, “I am responsible and I am willing to let go of this upset. My relationship and my emotional well-being is more important than my being upset” (Note- this is an extremely important step and it is meant for dealing with daily irritations that come up. This does not mean you should tolerate bad or abusive behavior or that it's wrong to become upset about issues. The point is that relationship communication is hindered when you try to talk while you're upset.)

4. Once you express this willingness, ask yourself what’s needed: Do I need to make a request? Do I need to express my desires/wishes/hopes? Do I need to shift my expectations and/or evaluate which is more important – this issue or my relationship?

7. Remind yourself that h/she has a valid perspective, wants to be happy and wants a close relationship.

8. Remind yourself about your priority for a close and happy relationship and that you really want good relationship communication.

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