Thursday, June 6, 2013

If Only Couples Came Pre-Programmed to Communicate Well

I use to be pretty bad at communicating my feelings, even worse, I didn't realize just how bad it was. Today I can say that I am much better. But somewhere in between bad and better there have been yelling matches, tears, heated words, the "evil eye" used overtime, silent treatments and all the unnecessary drama of failing to communicate well. 

First thing to keep in mind, where there's romance, there's deception. When you first meet someone and that stage is all butterflies and googly-eyes, communication is easy. Truth is, in that stage communication isn't real. During the early months, and even years of dating, most couples put their best foot forward and actually strive to communicate well. Or worse, couples ignore issues for the sake of not disturbing the romantic peace. Then this stage wears off. Relationships evolve. Couples can't keep up the perfect facade for too long. At some point, the real you will have to communicate annoyances, share gripes or will be just plain moody.

Here's what I've learned about communication through much trial and error:

Not communicating is bad communication.  Ignoring feelings doesn't help long-term. Suppressing real emotions will never make them go away. Truth be told all emotions boil over if communication is lacking and frustrations are ignored or as I like to say: "emotions are swallowed." In my relationship,  I talk too much and don't listen enough. I'm working on that. My husband on the other hand is a great listener but does tend to keep his emotions in. He's a work in progress (as am I) and though it's so much more natural for him to just say nothing for the sake of keeping the peace, which is how he was raised; he now tries his best to share what's on his mind. Lately, he's done a great job by offering a little disclaimer: "Okay babe, ego aside, this is what I'm feeling..." Bringing me to the next point... 

Setting ego-aside is the best and hardest thing to do, but works wonders when communicating. What made me the worst communicator early on in my marriage is that I could never be wrong, told I was wrong, or even looked at in a way that suggested I was wrong. That's such a huge lack of maturity on my part, but I know so many who relate to this feeling.  I use to assume I was communicating because I was complaining. Those are two different things. And on top of that, I couldn't be wrong. I learned that this was a part of my communication style that didn't work. I took a long hard look at my ego and started to look for ways to keep it in check and accept, "I can be WRONG!"I now strive to take a breath, slow down, think, set ego aside, and communicate what I need to with words that will help not hinder healthy discussions. 

Learn your partner's communication style and embrace it. The more and more couples I meet who appear to have solid relationships also appear to be opposites in a lot of ways. It's probably safe to assume they also communicate very differently. Learn your partner's style and your own. Awareness goes such a long way. So sit down and try to understand what works and what doesn't. Do this when  you're both calm and don't attach this conversation to a previous fight or failed attempt at communicating. By doing this you'll identify common ground in which to communicate effectively moving forward.

Quit while you're ahead. This isn't easy, but it's critical. Before, I could never drop issues and poor communication inevitably led to fighting. And who wants to fight for the sake of fighting? Suddenly you're fighting about a fight and probably can't even remember how you got there.  I was once advised when it looks like a conversation is about to become a fight do one of the following: become silent and grab your partner's hand (the act of touching can naturally calm emotions). Obviously, tell your partner about this tactic before attempting it or you'll just look like a crazy person. Next, when it's too late for a touch of the hand and silence, ask for a timeout. Respectfully ask to immediately pause a conversation to gather yourself. Ending a conversation doesn't mean it's over. It just means you need time to cool off or gather your emotions. Come back to the discussion when things feel less heated and your emotions are calm.

Hope these tips make your next attempt at healthy communication fruitful!
There's so much left to share about this topic, so share what your tips too! 

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