I say this all the time, but I’ll say it again: communication skills are to relationships as railroad tracks are to a train – without them, you aren’t going anywhere.
If communication is lacking within your relationship it will ignite conflict, erode romance, and increase overwhelm and stress. So, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen…
1) Gottman’s Soft Start Up: When it comes to addressing conflict or making requests within your relationship, studies show that it is best to utilize what The Gottman Institute coined as a “soft start up.” That means you wait until you are emotionally sound, and say something along the lines of “Hey, I’d like to discuss what happened the other day. Is now a good time?” instead of assuming that your partner is ready to talk when you are. Here is the challenging part: your partner is allowed to say “no” and propose a time that does work for them. When our emotions are running high the part of our brains that is in charge of logical decision making (the prefrontal cortex) shuts off, so it is imperative to ensure both parties are calm & ready to go before having hard discussions.
2) Use “I” Statements: An “I” statement means that you begin the sentence with the word “I” instead of “you.” This allows for the message to be communicated more effectively & taken less harshly. For example, “I am feeling stressed about our budget. Can we take a look at it together?” instead of “You spend so much money and it’s stressing me out.” You can see that the 2nd version is much more aggressive and confrontational, whereas the original sentence puts you on the same team as your partner.
3) Ask Clarifying Questions: The #1 issue I see when it comes to derailed communication is making assumptions. The reality is that your partner did not grow up in the same environment you did. You both come from different backgrounds – different parents, different friends, entirely different existences, which means that their communication style is NOT the same as yours. So, when you hear your partner say something that you interpret as offensive or off-putting, instead of jumping to the conclusion that they meant to offend, simply ask them, “What did you mean by that?” or “Can you explain that?” If we can train ourselves to pause for a beat, set our emotions aside and commit to understanding what our partner truly means, then we will experience much less miscommunication and gain a further understanding our partner’s communication style.
This is the tip to the communication iceberg that tends to sink so many relationships.
For more tips on how to enhance communication within your relationship head to my instagram and check out my IGTV series on communication!