That argument you had before work about who was responsible for buying new milk probably isn’t the best example of effective communication. All partners “talk” to each other, but very few really use communication as a tool to build and revitalize their marriage. Here are some tips to help you move from “gabbing” to really connecting through your conversations.
- Realize that no one “wins” an argument. If you don’t leave a discussion with a possible solution to the problem, then neither party has been successful.
- Compromise is an essential tool to solving problems through communication. Before bringing up a problem, make sure you have thought of ways that you can help solve it by mutual compromise.
- Try and be positive when bringing up sensitive marital problems. Instead of jumping right into a discussion, open by acknowledging that every partnership could be improved and you’d like to take some time and discuss the things that are working in your relationship and the areas that could use improvement. It helps to start by talking about positive things and then moving into the deeper discussion on problem areas.
- Be a “reflective” listener and make sure you understand what your partner has said. “What I hear you saying is…” is a great way to make sure the proper message has been received.
- Feel free to use the “time out” card if the discussion gets too intense. If an argument gets heated and irrational, it is better to postpone the discussion to a time and place where effective communication can happen.
- Make sure your body language, facial expressions and vocal tone are in line with your message.
- Don’t be cryptic because you are afraid to bring up the real issue. If you enter a conversation insecure about making your point — you probably won’t make it.
- If you can’t come up with a definitive solution, at least try and end the conversation on a positive note like “I think it’s good we’ve both shared our feelings and we’ll continue to talk about it and try to come up with a better solution.”
- Don’t ever be rude or talk down to your partner in a discussion about your relationship. Don’t dismiss an idea or thought as absurd, but instead listen to your partner’s point and then react with the reasons you disagree in a respectful manner.
- Don’t be sidetracked by tangents. If you sit down to talk about a financial problem and suddenly other emotional issues are coming up, realize that you may need to focus on one area at a time in order to create solutions instead of mere bickering.
- Realize when you need outside help to communicate effectively. A counselor or marriage retreat may help solve what seems to be an impossible communication problem.
Remember, effective communication sometimes takes a great deal of effort. When bringing up sensitive issues or important discussion matters, make sure you assess all factors of communication — especially your environment. Choose a time, place and atmosphere where stress and distractions are low so your conversation has more impact. And never be afraid to utilize the help of a counselor, therapist or marriage retreat to help resolve issues and communicate more effectively.