Relationships are complex. Well, at least they can be for most. Nearly 90% of couples that seek counseling at our practice indicate they want to learn to achieve better or healthier communication with their partner.
So, where do you begin? Well, the good news is that it’s relatively easier than we realize. The reason being that our primitive brain is hard-wired to be critical thinkers.
Do you know that feeling when you walk through the door after a long day of work and you notice your partner looks upset, or even angry. You ask, “Is everything okay?” And the response you may get is “I am just fine!” Now, you notice the tone in their voice, and you know they are not fine, right? In unhealthy communication patterns, you may flight or freeze. Meaning, you will either walk away and think to yourself, “I am not going to probe further”, or you freeze waiting for the person to say something more. STOP! Lean into your partner instead!
This is what I want to encourage you to do….
1. Assess the Problem
Remember, you asked, “Is everything okay?”
You assessed the tone. Clearly, everything is NOT okay. I repeat. Not Okay! Don’t avoid. Keep leaning in.
2. Notice body language
I can tell that you’re feeling____________(Name the emotion you see, ie. Hurt, angry, frustrated) This is critical because what one may be overtly saying, may differ/or be unspoken based on the body language. Noticing one’s body language allows your partner to be “seen” and that is essential to healthy communication.
3. Ask Questions
-Do you want to talk about it?
-Can you share with me why you seem upset or frustrated?
(You have created a space that is welcoming, and you’re inviting a conversation.)
– I can understand why you would feel__________(Rename the emotions, or repeat back what
you heard them say) Key: You are like a mirror in this place.
5. Ask if they want your input?
– That makes sense why you’re feeling________. Can I share my thoughts? Do not start problem solving here. Oftentimes, we want to be heard and seen. We don’t necessarily want advice.
This is the quick tutorial or brief cliff notes to my lessons on communication. This takes both partners practicing and wanting to have healthier communication. Learning to listen and lean into one another versus avoiding. Will you get this right all the time? No, but when you get it wrong because you will, take a step back and try again.
Relationships can be challenging, but when both partners are willing and want to change, there is beauty in the challenge.