>I find that most couples who first come to see me say that they cannot communicate on important issues. They are hoping to learn skills for better communication and we begin learning these skills in the very first session.
It can be very scary to talk about issues that may start big arguments or bring up serious topics that may end in consequences you may not feel prepared for. So, most couples tend to sweep everything under the rug. How’s that working for you?
Please read below, 10 Tips for Improving Your Relationship. It’s good information that you can use at home before you decide if you want to come in for relationship counseling.
10 Tips for Improving Your Relationships
1. Evaluate From a Long Term Perspective
The other person may be tired or preoccupied right now (it’s not all about you, after all), and not up for a whole lot of straight talk. Your communication problems may improve on their own over time, or may just not be important enough in the long run for you to demand that today’s problem be fixed right now. If it’s not earth-shakingly important, and if the other wants to pass on fixing things right now, consider doing so; you can always call in the IOU later on.
2. Listen with More Attention, And More Caring
This is a person you’re in a relationship with. Whether it’s your child, your boss, or your romantic interest, what could be more worthy of your attention than trying to understand what they are saying, what they are feeling, and why they are sharing this with you at this moment? Put aside distractions, provide feedback so they know they are being heard, and try to find out how you can help. You want to, right?
3. Handle Conflict More Skillfully
For starters, work to clarify any ambiguity about expectations. Pause – a lot- to let yourself calm down prior to responding to any comments or actions that anger you. You might say, “I need to think about that a minute.” Don’t try to reason someone out of something they decided on emotion, not reason (e.g., who to trust, what to believe). Sidestep stalemates with an agreement to try again later, when you both have gathered more data about “it”. Control your urge to say hurtful things; the damage is too long-lasting to be worth the momentary feeling of power.
4. Become Less Dependent on the Relationship for Your Own Life Satisfaction
This is a tough one, for it requires that you find your own personal reason for being on this earth; your mission, if you will. The relationships you find yourself in throughout your life must, for the fullest life, be managed with that mission in mind. That means asking their support from time to time for that purpose, and lending your support to them in helping them fulfill their own mission, which is a lot different from needing the relationship to give you a reason for living.
5. Understand How the Other Person Thinks, And Why
This is probably the greatest secret to better communication in relationships; to know that each of us can only think the way our background and experiences have prepared us to think. Since we all have different backgrounds and experiences, conflicts are inevitable, and understanding difficult. Nevertheless, it’s worth learning to say “My experience has been different”, instead of “You’re wrong”. And it’s worth listening to them explain what in their background has led them to believe as they do. That’s a huge step toward better acceptance, and better understanding!
6. Master Assertive Communication
Aggressive communicators take care of themselves and let the other twist in the wind; passive communicators take care of the other and suffer for it, feeling put-upon. Assertive communication, a “graduate-level” communication skill between the two extremes, requires protecting yourself while acknowledging the needs of the other and trying to offer some help, suggestions, or referrals. It takes a lot of patience, and practice, but the results are simply incredible in better results, increased self-respect, the admiration of others, and real, lasting solutions to problems.
7. Understand and Work to Control the Nonverbal Messages You Send
How do you feel when someone says “sure”, but crosses their arms when you ask, “Can we talk?” You don’t believe them, right? So don’t project that same closed, uncaring attitude yourself. Make enough eye contact so they know you are paying attention, but not so much they feel microscopically examined, position yourself to limit distractions (not looking out the window, or at the TV, for example), and control your fidgeting, which looks impatient and weak. A calm, attentive position, with lots of feedback so they know they are being heard works wonders.
8. Learn How to Exit Non-Destructively When Anger Threatens Communication
When your emotions are getting out of control, good communication is terribly difficult. So, give yourself, and the other, a break. Take a time-out; go to the rest room, take a quick walk. Let those hormones racing through your blood reach a more agreeable level so your reasoning powers have a chance to work. Don’t just walk out, though- that signals the end of the relationship. Say something like, “Give me a couple of minutes; I’ll be right back”, or “Can we talk some more about this a little later today? – I’ve got something else that’s distracting me and this deserves our full attention.” Those comments work to preserve the relationship and buy you time to settle down.
9. Hear the Need behind the Want
Surprisingly, lots of communications breakdowns occur for reasons that aren’t even real and certainly not necessary. That argument about someone not being there for dinner with you may be really about your need for attention and comfort. That war over a promotion at work may be really about a need for security or power. Needs can be satisfied in a variety of legitimate ways, once you discover which needs are hiding behind the loudly proclaimed wants.
10. Celebrate the Positive and Express Your Gratitude
People who have lost loved ones tell us how sorry they are they didn’t tell those people what gifts they were, or how much they were loved. Don’t join that guilty crowd- tell those close to you how much you care for them, and what, specifically, you appreciate about them. That alone will change the quality of the relationship, and of your life, for the better!
Linda Abbott Trapp, Ph.D. http://www.selfhelpmagazine.com/