Don’t be mean or try to figure out who is at fault! State your feelings honestly without being sarcastic or insulting to the other person. Think about the impact of your words before you speak. It is more important to talk about what you both need to do to solve the problem, rather than assign blame.
Stick to the issue on the table. Don’t bring out the bag of past grievances and dump it on the table.
No name-calling, such as: “You are such a jerk!” Avoid verbally abusing people. Refrain from insults, put-downs, and expressions of disgust.
Don’t mind-read. If you don’t know how your partner feels or thinks, then ASK.
Incorporate positive statements and compliments along with your complaints. This will soften the blow of any complaints or concerns and make your partner less defensive.
Remember you only have control over changing yourself, not others. You don’t have to wait for your partner to change. You can go first!
Leave others out. Don’t bring other people into the discussion, such as: “Even your brother thinks you are selfish!”
Avoid starting a sentence with “you”. It sounds like an accusation or an invitation to fight (which it usually is!). Stick to “I” statements. Try the XYZ model for this type of communication:
- I feel X
- when you do Y
- in situation Z
- For example: “I feel hurt when you criticize me when we are with our friends.”
To become a more effective listener, try some of these techniques:
Listen…don’t talk! Be quick to listen and slowwwww to speak. Don’t interrupt mid-sentence. And listen to understand, rather than spending the time preparing for your defense.
Try to empathize. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes as you listen.
Think before you say anything in response, especially if you are having a strong emotional response.
Remember feelings are neither right nor wrong. Your partner is the expert on his or her feelings and those feelings are their present reality. Feelings are not facts, but they are essential in understanding why your partner is responding to you in certain ways. You can spend a lot of time arguing about the facts and completely discount your partner’s feelings
Be aware of non-verbal signs and clues (both your own and your partner’s). These include shrugging your shoulders, your tone of voice, crossing your arms, nodding, avoidance of eye contact, rolling your eyes, facial expressions, etc.
When responding, let your partner know that you heard what he or she said by using a feedback technique and restating what you heard. Say something like “I think what you said was…” or “Do you mean that…”or “I understood you to say….”.
Listening and responding with concern and understanding of your partner’s feelings is often all she or he may need from you.
Don’t give advice unless asked for it, but be prepared to do some problem solving, if that is what your partner requests.
Most importantly, remember that all couples have their share of problems. You are not always going to see eye-to-eye on things, but if you know how to communicate effectively, with kindness and respect, you can get through disagreements with positive outcomes and the love intact!
Written by Lauren Barnett, Director of Marketing