When couples come to see me in my office at The Couples Expert, one of the things I often notice is that one (or sometimes) both of the partners has something that’s very important that they want to say, and they don’t feel they’re being heard. When they get to their appointment in my office in Scottsdale, it’s a burning flame that cannot be contained. Couples will talk over each other, cut each other off and literally shout each other down in their desire to be heard.
When couples say they have “communication issues” this is one of the most common. I literally have to referee these “discussions” and stop one partner from speaking and do my utmost to get the other one to stay quiet long enough to listen to what they’re trying to convey. Listening can be the most difficult especially with the intent of understanding their partner’s point of view in these situations. What these couples have not learned is a couple of the “golden rules” The first being the famous, do unto others golden rule that says you should treat your partner the way you want them to treat you; and the second is that silence is golden.
When you and your partner are shouting each other down trying to get your point across, it’s all just noise. Nothing is accomplished except the two of you becoming increasingly more frustrated, angry and resentful. You’re still not hearing each other, and no amount of yelling, increased volume or repetition is going to change that. The only result is more of the same.
In my efforts to restructure and reframe the interactions of this couple, I often have to teach them these simple rules. I believe they’re useful for all couples in learning how to interact, to discuss issues, and to simply have meaningful conversations where both partners feel important and feel that they are being listened to and are really being heard.
- Give your partner space and time. Go into the discussion prepared to listen to your partner until they are done speaking. Don’t jump in, don’t hijack the conversation, don’t interject at all. Instead, be quiet, be respectful and hear them out.
- Listen with intention. Give eye contact, open and receptive body language, and do your best to take in what your partner is saying without being defensive or standoffish. One of the most valuable gifts you can give them is your full attention. Listen without the intention to reply. Listen to understand.
- Be an active listener. Don’t turn away, roll your eyes or look at your phone. Nod your head, give your partner cues that indicate you are not only listening , but really hearing what they have to say.
- Be open to hearing. We often want to filter out what is being said because it doesn’t agree with our side of the issue. Your partner may have a valid point that you previously didn’t recognize. Love and respect them enough to consider that you might not always be right, and they may be able to sway you to their point of view. Recognize their intent is to resolve the issue.
- Give your partner’s words the importance they deserve. Remember, if it’s important enough for them to potentially go to war over, it should be important to you to listen to them. This is your partner, the person you love. What’s important to them should be equally important to you.
These may seem like simple things, but I assure you, they are far more important than most people realize. We all want to feel like we’re being listened to and really heard. Giving this to your partner will go a very long way in improving your communication with each other. Simple courtesy, listening and staying quiet when it’s prudent will help to solve a lot of problems between you. Of course it goes both ways .You both should do this for each other and make sure that you both get equal time. When this style of communication becomes a habit, the incidents of arguing and escalating will be significantly reduced.