We all know that communication can make or break any relationship. Psychologist Dr. Kristin Davin has come up with some excellent tips to remember when dealing with any of your loved ones. Enjoy her guest blog below — and try to remember a few of her helpful points the next time you sit down to have an important chat.
“We don’t know how to communicate.”
“We don’t know how to fight fair. How do you do that?”
“Most of our conversations become arguments and remain unresolved.”
I hear these comments often, which is a reminder of just how universal communication difficulties are, especially in intimate relationships. These difficulties result in conversations that many times remain unresolved or escalate to an argument.
The back and forth between two people (spouses, partners, mother/child, co-workers) is referred to as the “dance” and is maintained and reinforced by both parties, though in varying degrees. In therapy, we work towards changing the “dance” or communication patterns and take what is discussed and practiced in the therapy room, to the “real world”—their life, their everyday exchanges.
Ultimately, each person learns how to become more effective and proficient at expressing what they are feeling and thinking. In addition, they will be able to listen to the other person, without interjecting, talking over, interrupting, or responding defensively. A tall order! Yes, I know. But, it is possible. I have been witness to this process many times and it’s remarkable each time it occurs!
In the beginning, and especially in the heat of the moment, the ability to communicate effectively is that much more challenging. Even for the seasoned therapist such as myself who helps people on a daily basis, I have my moments where conversations in my relationship do not go as planned. No relationship is perfect, mine included. The proof, however, is in the desire to be open to change, remain flexible in your thinking, and figure out what works for both people.
Thus, a few “tools” go a long way. Over time and with practice, change will and does occur. This creates hope for future, healthier conversations. The key? Start small, have a plan, and decide on a couple of changes together. This helps the couple feel they are working together to mend their differences, which reinforces their relationship.
Strategies To Improve Communication
1. Create your own marriage or relationship rules. People don’t always know how to start this process, but they really like this idea! They find it to be eye-opening, beneficial, and helps create a conversation about their relationship.
2. Before you get into any discussion, determine the emotional mood you are in and then communicate that to the other person. Ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” If not, ask when might be a good time? Schedule a time and then both people need to honor the plan.
3. Forgo technology one night a week. Research has proven that overuse of technology can negatively affect relationships.
4. Request an apology if you think you deserve one. Be the one to extend the olive branch once in awhile.
5. Mind-reading does not work and is futile—though, people keep trying. It’s your responsibility to tell your partner what you want and need. It is not his or hers to figure it out.
6. Take certain trigger words off the table—the D word (divorce), I am leaving/I am out of here—especially in the heat of an argument.