"We need to talk" - The art of communication
Could a destructive pattern of behaviour such as a breakdown in communication be killing your relationship?
There are many different ways in which communication can break down: not asking key questions, not listening or empathising, being passive-aggressive, not being frank with one another, or relying heavily on technology to communicate.
It sounds like a lot but when the shutters of communication go down, these things can filter very quickly into the dynamics of your relationship. The biggest and worst strategy that is employed by people when facing tension in a relationship is avoidance: "I don't want to ask him in case I hurt his feelings.", "I don't want to talk to her about it.", "Now's not the time."; does this sound familiar? When these barriers come down curiosity is not explored, then the relationship will come to a halt. If someone is not willing to talk this can lead to you or your partner feeling insecure and lacking when it comes to feeling loved.
There is also a difference between being shy and a bad communicator; even though a shy person will appear timid and on occasion anxious, they can, if they are a good communicator, ask the question should they need to.
For a healthy relationship, you need teamwork. Not everyone communicates in the same way, and they do not deal with problems in the same way. It is important to know what is the best way to talk for you and avoid the introduction of a medium that can be misunderstood. Take this texting example:
"Yes!!" - now does this, from you interpretation, mean the person is ecstatic, shouting or frustrated with you?
The exclamation mark has to be one of the most abused pieces of punctuation in the world today, as it can communicate so many emotions through texts. The problem arises we are unable to process what they mean, as on occasion we cloud the situation with our over emotional analysis of the text.
Similarly, one word answers such as "OK." and "fine." fail to communicate any emotion, as they are barriers in their own right.
How can I be a better communicator?
- Talk face to face where possible.
- Be frank with one another to show honesty and respect.
- Ask for an apology if you deserve one, but remember to do the same in return if it is needed.
- Avoid mind reading - it doesn't work - tell your partner what you need.
- Have a courtesy and respect for one another: Don't say or do anything that you would not like said or done to yourself, i.e. using aggressive language.
- Use 'I' statements to give you confidence and make yourself understood: "I feel hurt because..."
- Stay on topic, don't bring up every past issue you have had, stick with the issue at hand and if something else does come up set time aside to address that issue.
- For everything negative thing you say try and say a positive thing in return.
- Try and use humour to diffuse the tension where possible.
Counselling might help you develop these skills or work through an issue on your own, or as a couple, and is a worthwhile investment, if you find yourselves stuck in a rut. It can help break restrictions on your communication by boosting confidence and working through past issues. Remember communication is the key.
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