Relationships - Talking Without Arguing

The novelist E M Forster once said: ‘How do I know what I think, until I hear what I say?’ Talking is hugely underestimated; when we really start looking at what is happening when we talk, we may get a surprise. It isn't just the act of speaking but also the skills involved in listening and the perceptions we bring to the meeting that influences how effective we are at communicating.

In relationships talking and listening are probably the two most important aspects of intimacy. Through verbal and physical expression we let our partner into our world; our views, values, dreams and ideas. It is the way we get to know one another and the way we initially enjoy each other’s company. It also sets the template for the way we will communicate in the future.

With time and experience we will get to know the topics and communication styles that work and those that don't. However, often this knowledge remains subconscious and instead of being helpful, becomes an ingrained pattern of communication, which is not always helpful.

Daily conversation in a relationship may be easy and won't necessarily cause many problems. When it comes to in-depth talking, problem solving or supporting each other, it may be that our patterns of communicating stops us from interacting in a mutually beneficial manner.

Many couples find they get on really well at the beginning of their relationship, remembering their early days as talking a lot and being very close. Months or perhaps years later conversation has gradually changed and become a little more difficult, with arguments happening regularly. This change can be caused by many things though one common reason is that unresolved issues lie in the background, getting in the way of having a more intimate conversation.

Some hints on how to have mutually satisfying conversations may be:

  • Think of how you would talk with your best friend; the conversation may be different but the way you behave should be very similar. After all, this is your chosen partner, why not be nice to him/her?
  • If your talks tend to erupt into arguments and accusations, try to recognise when this is about to start and take time out. Go to separate rooms for 15 minutes and then return and have a calmer talk.
  • Always talk from an 'I' point of view; for example, don't blame the other for how you feel, but talk about the behaviour: say 'when you do that, I feel ...' rather than 'you make me feel...'.
  • Expressions such as 'you always...' or 'you never...' are rarely true and can cause an argument by themselves. Stay away from these and try 'I would like you to...' so turning the expression into something that can be done or discussed (calmly, preferably!)

Relationships are difficult at the best of times; managing the distance or closeness between partners can easily get out of balance. If we are willing to recognise the part we play, we stand a chance of deepening our relationship and increasing our happiness. The above hints are just a few small adjustments that can make a huge difference to the level of happiness in your relationship.

E. M. Foster was right; you do need to hear what you are saying before you know what you think. So next time you and your partner talk, try listening to what it is you are saying and how you say it, then imagine your own reaction if the same was said to you.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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