Improve Communication with your Partner
We all want to have supportive and understanding relationships, a key to this is good communication. Clinical psychologist, Ethelwyn Rebelo from Meaningful Minds Psychologists, looks at ways to improve your communication.
So many difficulties in relationships can be dealt with more effectively if couples are able to speak to each other non-aggressively and are prepared to not only listen, but to also truly hear what the other is saying or even trying to say. It is important that individuals in a partnership learn to communicate their feelings rather than to word their concerns in the form of an attack. This is a very common mistake made by many people. When a person expresses an emotion or desire as an attack or criticism, then the other person’s usual reflexive response is to counter-attack. In this way nobody gets heard. A good way of trying to ensure that one communicates in a way that assists one in getting heard is to frame comments in the following ways:
1.“When you make plans for the weekend without consulting me, you make me feel frustrated as I have other activities that I would have preferred to do with you.”
2.“When you say things like ‘Sindy is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen’ to me, it makes me feel envious because I love you so much and I want you to be happy to be married to me.”
3.“I feel stupid when you ignore my comments in front of other people and I wonder why you do this? Is it that you don’t agree with what I say?”
4.“I think you may have misunderstood me as I am getting the sense that I have really hurt you, and this was certainly not my intention.”
The emphasis should be on how the person feels rather than on a criticism of the other. Of course, in many cases there is an implied gripe, as in the examples above. But stating one’s feelings and responses in a gentle way is more informative to the listener who may then process that a certain statement or action on his or her part caused some sort of hurt.
However this is not the whole story. One part of it is how one frames a particular issue, the other side is being able to listen and to convey that one has heard the communication. For this purpose it is often useful to reflect back by using one’s own words to reframe what we have understood the other person to say. One can also reflect back in depth by making use of a positive and deeper, emotion-based interpretation which, if accurate, might make the other feel significantly understood. The partners in the examples above, might respond in the following ways:
1.“I’m sorry, I understand that when I enthusiastically make plans for us, without asking you first how you feel about them, I am forgetting that you might have other things that you might want to do and that by doing this I am making you feel disempowered.”
2.“When I commented on Sindy’s beauty, I made you doubt that I truly love you. I am so sorry, my angel. Sindy is pretty, but you should know that my heart belongs to you alone.”
3.“You say that I ignore you in front of others? My apologies, I really was not aware that I was making you feel disregarded.”
4.“Yes, I must admit I did not like your saying that I looked a bit too from the 1950’s in that shirt, but it’s okay, you can call me Elvis.”