For example, you may want to immediately resolve an issue while your partner needs a day or two to mull it over before discussing the problem at hand. Or you may flee the moment your partner confronts you, leading him or her to follow you around trying to talk about it. Overall, these differing patterns can lead to unresolved issues and destroy your relationship. However, with a little flexibility and some work on both your parts, you and your partner can establish healthier communication patterns, which will positively impact your relationship.
4 Tips of Effective Communication
1. Regulate Your Emotions & Just Breathe. In his book The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel Siegel introduced readers to the concept of the window of tolerance, suggesting arousal impacts an individual’s ability to function. When you are in a high or low state of arousal, you are not yourself. You may say things you don't mean to say or act out of the norm. However, to self-soothe and start regulating your emotions, you can simply breathe. Yes, you can change your state of arousal and mind by using your breath! So when you start feeling that anxiety or anger rising, take a few deep, controlled breaths.
2. Don’t Hold Your Tongue . This is not the time to ignore or bury your feelings. However, if what you’re about to say will be damaging, reconsider sharing that nasty thought that just skated through your head. Using “I” statements, communicate your feelings in a nonthreatening manner. Watch your tone of voice and calmly share what’s on your mind. It’s okay to communicate your feelings, but remember you are responsible for your own feelings and behaviors so cut out the undertones of blame.
Also, while you’re at it, using absolute phrases like “you always” and “you never” is one of the least productive ways to communicate. Think about it, how likely are you to shutdown in the middle of a conversation when you’re feeling blamed? If you do it, it’s likely that your partner may react in the same way. Your goal is to communicate your message, if your partner checks out of the conversation, the chances of him or her hearing what you had to say are slim to none.
3. Practice Active Listening. Most of us hear what our partner is saying without actually listening. If you are constructing your rebuttal as your partner is talking, you are not listening. If you’re interrupting your partner, you’re not listening. When you listen – I mean really listen – you are able to reflect back what you heard and ask clarifying questions. If you find that you are often frustrated with you partner or only hear blame; you may not actually be listening. More than likely your perspective has kicked in and you’re only hearing what you want to hear, not what is actually being said. When your partner is finished speaking, reflect what you heard and ask questions to clarify any misunderstanding.
4. Set a Time Limit. Being 100% present in a conversation isn’t a skill that is developed overnight. Take it from a counselor, it takes work and years of practice to cultivate this skill. So, give your partner and yourself a little break. Instead of talking for 30-minutes straight, shorten your talking time. The less information you share, the greater the chance it will be heard accurately. If you are communicating something important to your partner, try to keep it under five minutes. You and your partner can take turns in 5-minute increments, building in time for reflection and clarifying questions.
Overall, whether you shut down when confronted, attack your partner’s character, insult him or her, or play the victim card, altering your communication pattern can have a positive impact on your relationship. So, channel your inner Buddha with a few deep breaths and express your feelings, wants, and needs without blaming your partner. Your new ability to compassionately communicate within a structured timeframe can enhance your conversations, potentially helping you resolve the issue. However, remember to actively listen and show your partner the same respect you were shown.