When communication fails in a relationship you can feel:
As if your partner doesn’t listen,
Like you’re walking on eggshells.
Frustrated and helpless that your partner doesn’t understand.
Alone and unloved.
The truth is many couples struggle with their communication in their relationship, and unsurprisingly poor communication is a major source of arguments.
You would think communication is easy: Just say how you feel and what you think….right?
However, as it turns out, when we are angry or frustrated, we tend to be a little…ah well… irrational. Common mistakes people make when highly emotional include:
- Raising their voice or yelling.
- Using global statements – You always leave the dishes. You don’t ever listen to me.
- Over-using the “you”s – You don’t make any effort with my friends. You said you’d take the bins out.
- Making threats – If you don’t start being more affectionate, I will leave you.
- Name-calling or labelling – You’re so dumb. That was so selfish.
This type of “combat” communication will initiate defensiveness and anger in your partner. And at this point, your partner will be unlikely to hear anything you’re saying – communication fail… face plant.
Some people, however, struggle to communicate their feelings at all, and may become passive aggressive towards their partner when they’re angry or hurt. Typical passive aggressive behaviour includes moping around or being cold and withdrawn. This type of communication is perhaps the worst, as it causes only frustration and confusion in the recipient, with nil resolve!
And let’s face it, at some point, despite trying to keep a lid on your emotions, you will burst! And this burst, will be about as rational as Kayne West after a few wines on Twitter.
So, how do I communicate effectively?
Communicating effectively is an art form. For most people it does not come easy and takes lots of practise. While there are some simple rules to follow to ensure YOU communicate effectively, these can go out the window if your partner winds you up during a discussion. Therefore, effective communication is most effective when you practise together, which I will talk about in my next relationship blog post. However, it’s not always easy to force your partner to sit down and practise the art of awesome communication, so let’s start with YOU!
To ensure you communicate in a way that helps your partner hear your concern, make sure to:
- Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. These avoid blame and indicate ownership of your experiences and feelings.
- Avoid generalising; “never”, “always”, “constantly” or “ever” being common culprits to arguments.
- Be as specific as possible, focusing on one situation and even better – one part of the situation. Be specific with your requests for change. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your partner to understand you without taking your feedback personally.
- Avoid labelling and name-calling.
- Avoid deviating from your point. Stay focused on your original issue. Even if your partner raises other situations or issues, say “I am happy to talk about that next, but do you mind if we just stay on my difficulty for now?”
- If your partner struggles to understand your issue, repeat your statement again and again, like a broken record. This will help your partner stay focused and hear what you’re saying.
- Remain calm, avoid verbal and non-verbal aggression.
Steps to effective communication
With the above in mind, follow the following steps:
- Describe your partner’s action objectively …when you decided to play video games last night rather than go to the movies together…
- Describe the impact of your partner’s behaviour on you …it meant I did not get to spend quality time with you…
- Describe your feelings (dig to a deeper emotion if you’re feeling angry, annoyed, frustrated) …I felt sad by this…
- State how you would prefer the behaviour to be in the future …so in the future I’d like you to suggest alternative plans for the next day if you feel like choosing a night-in.
How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?
Our team of psychologists in Melbourne are experienced and trained in helping individuals learn to communicate effectively in their relationship. We also have a number of psychologists who are highly skilled in supporting people with relationship difficulties. If you’re unsure whether to seek help for your relationship you may like to read blog post – Time to Seek Relationship Help? Otherwise, you can book an appointment today with one of our warm and professional psychologists.