Relationship Counselling - How To Communicate Better
7th June, 2011
Talk About It
- Being honest and real with each other is a scary thing, yet it's the way to go.
- It's important to keep a "clean heart" towards each other so if something is bothering you, that makes you feel distant from your partner don't let it go, or minimise it - share it
- If you are fearful of having arguments or upsetting each other it's well worth getting some support to understand your fears. It's important that you can be true to yourself.
Prioritise Having A Relationship Instead of Arguing About Who Is Right
- Rather than argue in a power struggle over who is "right", allow room for two realities that can both be valid.
- Focus on what you want rather than arguing the details of who said what, when, and who is right. You both are!
- It doesn't matter that you see the world differently along as you can agree a way forward that meets both your needs.
- Be curious about what is important to your partner. Respect the things that they say are important, are important, to them
- Sometimes it can feel that your partner is out to put you down when really underneath they want connect with you.
There's Room Male Logic and Female Feeling
- Men tend to focus on the content of what is said and argue the details whereas women tend to focus on the feelings underneath. In an argument it can be like a man and woman being on two different radio channels, wishing the other to tune into their channel.
- Here's a story that helps explain the differences:
In ancient times of hunter-gatherers men would go and hunt.They would need to focus on one thing and be direct with each other to work together to survive the hunt. Women would be busy child-rearing and keeping the social network together. Survival was about keeping the social harmony . Directness was avoided as it was too confrontational and left them feeling vulnerable of being excluded from the group. They learnt the art of subtle communication where it was only necessary to hint at what was needed and the other women would pick things up without their being any confrontation. What was important was how each person felt and keeping the harmony and connection in the group. In modern times there is still the conditioning of men being validated for their logic and women being validated for their ability to tune in and connect in feeling.
- Men and women can benefit from honouring and appreciating the differences between the genders and realise that we have different life journeys and social conditioning. For many it's a massive shift to stop expecting a partner to communicate in the same way they do. Men expect women to be logical and women expect men to pick up indirect signals
- Men can learn to listen to the feeling and respond with feeling on the feeling channel and women can learn to speak directly and with fewer words to men on the logic channel.
In Arguments Seek To Understand
- In an argument both people want to be heard. It's hard to remember when you are in the heat of emotion, but the way through is to be able to stand back a bit and first seek to understand what your partner is trying to say.Learn to listen to message underneath the content.
- Show you are listening and understanding by respectfully interrupting your partner by saying,'Let me see if I'm getting this..' then; repeat back what you have heard ( without adding any judgments or justifications ). You don't have to agree with what your partner said or question it - first show you are hearing what is said. Then check with your partner if they have more to add. Let them finish before responding. You don't need to repeat back everything just the key bits. Yes it can be difficult to do this!
- Often the message sent isn't the message received. Your partner may believe you are criticising them when that isn't your intention. Sometimes it is worth asking them to say back to you what they heard you say. This does need to be sensitively done so your partner understands that your intention is to show care and insure that there isn't any mis-communication rather than your intention being to control or patronisie them
- Men, women rarely want you to offer solutions to what they are telling you about, unless they specifically ask. They are wanting you to hear them out and tell them that everything will be ok. E.g. you believe they will sort it out.
Schedule Quality Time Together
- Schedule time together into your diaries so you have quality time with your partner each week so there is time to nourish your emotional bond and have fun together.
- Consciously ensure that you have uninterrupted time for love making. Allow plenty of time to connect and relax together before lovemaking so you are ready to make love in a connected way rather than use lovemaking as a way of discharging tension. Keep the focus on staying connected to each other, by slowing things down and sharing how you are feeling moment to moment.
- Quality time is about setting an intention to be fully open and available to each other and not to have a goal such as 'we must make love'. It's better to let things unfold.
- Appreciate your partner the moment that you a feel it. Develop the habit of noticing good feelings and expressing them
- The ratio of appreciation to bringing up issues should be 5 to 1. Appreciate your partner 5 times more often than bringing up issues
- The key to making a appreciation is to be specific - what did you partner do ,what do you feel about it, and why it is important to you. eg. Last night when you listened to me telling you all about my work day...I felt so cared for and that you were really there for me and that's important to me because it makes me feel special and close to you
- Even if your partner isn't used to being appreciated or becomes suspicious of what you up to with a bit of perseverance you will become more comfortable appreciating and your partner more able to receive
- To receive an appreciation you just need to acknowledge the other by saying ,'thank-you'. If True for you can say, 'thank-you, it means a lot to me to hear you say that" or say how you feel in response. 'Thank-you, I feel close to you and warm inside'
Say What You Need
- Women, focus on what you are feeling and what you are needing specifically when speaking to men.Use fewer words. Men easily feel overwhelmed with lots of words and tend to want to focus on one thing at once.
- The way to motivate men to do something is to communicate what you are wanting specifically. Men want to feel appreciated and trusted to deliver so if you show you have faith in your partner and are trusting him to sort something out, and will appreciate him for doing something he's going to be more responsive.
- Good communication comes from a willingness to share who you are and that means risking being vulnerable and saying what you need.
- Say what you are feeling using 'I" Statements rather than focusing on what your partner is doing wrong eg 'You always…or you never ...'.
- Relationship issues take two . A relationship is a system where the behaviour of one effects the feelings of the other and vice versa. If one of you is feeling insecure that could be because both of you are not talking enough for there to be a secure feeling connection.
- Avoid Saying your partner is "The Problem"
- Many arguments stem from there being lack of connection between you. If you focus on reconnecting rather than "the content" of the argument it helps.
- Make physical contact by touching on the arm/shoulder or hand to hand with your partner as this maintains a feeling of care and connection
- Men, it's easy to feel overwhelmed with the speed of women talking so it's essential to jump in, touch her on the hand or arm and interrupt her respectfully and say, 'let me see if I'm getting this'. This helps you both slow down and keep connected
- if you are feeling overwhelmed in an argument tell your partner you need a time out for 20 mins and check that is Ok. The key thing is to stress that you want to sort this out and you will be back after the agreed time. You need to keep your word about reengaging for this to work.
- Instead of distancing or sulking, take the risk of saying how you feel and what you need. If you do need time by yourself tell your partner and say when you will be ready to reconnect so they don't feel abandoned eg. I need some time by self right now to think over what we have said - how about me meet up in an hour
- Pay attention to greeting and leaving rituals so you and your partner feel nourished when you come together and part.Take time to focus on saying goodbye and hello! It's the intention to maintain connection that counts.
Give Your Partner What they Need
- Women are born into a crowded world of other women and due to that and conditioning have a basic need to feel "special".
- Men are born needing to separate from mother to become men and due to that and conditioning need to feel trusted,believed in and appreciated.
- It's worth repeating this: Women need to feel "special" and men need to feel "appreciated".
- If you act towards your partner being sensitive to the basic needs you get the joy of giving your partner what they need.
It's a confidence trick
1. Make your request as calmly as possible
2. Get agreement that he is willing to do it
3. Back off, so he is left with it. You are trusting him with it so you must maintain that trust for a period of time
4. If you need to follow it up repeat the process and agree a specific time.
5. If you need to follow up again, say how you feel about the importance of trusting his word, how in small and in big things him keeping his word is important for you to feel safe with him.
How does your partner know they are loved?
Notice what the is the magic key that makes your partner feel loved Are you giving your partner what works for you rather than what works for them? Do they respond to: Appreciative words /gifts/flowers/love notes/loving actions/touch/spending time with them/Doing a service for them? Ask your partner, find out what does it for them and makes them feel loved
When you can't communicate
- Communicating in a relationship is multi-layered. On the top layer are communication skills. These are the practical things you can do to improve communication with your partner which are useful to know and practise.
- You might find through that you get emotionally triggered despite your best efforts to change how you communicate. This is because of the bonding patterns we learnt about how safe it is to connect to others. It's uncanny how couple's have matching bonding patterns which are made up from:
- What you learnt about what it is to be a man or a woman
- What you learnt about relationships
- Your experience of love and conflict in your family
- What you learnt about power and vulnerability
If you are getting stuck in the same arguments, consider relationship counselling as a way of giving yourself and your partner the support you need to communicate better and feel emotionally closer. You don't need to figure it all out yourself
Related articles from our experts
- Helping your partner make the changes you want to see
Eugene Gallagher BSc (Hons), MBA, MA, MBACP16th January, 2018
- Divorce can be worse than bereavement
Leslie Sheinman PhD* MBACP UKCP15th January, 2018
- The Other Woman
Marilyn McKenzie BSc, PGDip, MBACP14th January, 2018
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.