One of the main roadblocks to creating a radiant and successful relationship is having poor communication skills and tools. Even if you believe you are a great communicator, you might not necessarily have the skills and tools needed to get on the same page with your partner… Great communication skills and tools are a must for succeeding at your relationship.
When I hear people say they are great communicators, a session from a long time ago come to mind. The wife was a self-proclaimed expert communicator. Her profession was Speech Pathology to boot. She believed she knew everything about communication and was the best at this skill.
What was really interesting is that in the session, she talked a mile-a-hour, barely took a breath, kept her husband quiet with her looks, and the massive amount of speaking wouldn’t let him get a word in edgewise… I even had a hard time getting anything in at first. And, this is common from self-proclaimed great communicators…
Being a great communicator doesn’t mean that you can talk a lot!
I share this story because this skill and related tools might get overlooked in their importance to the success of the relationship.
With great communication we are able to understand each other, show empathy and compassion, increase emotional intimacy, get on the same page, make decisions, resolve conflict, properly apologize, repair and make nice, and more.
Great communication allows us to Align in our humanness and in our partnership…
Communication skills is more than the words and tone we choose, our non-verbal communication, and showing interest in what the other has to say. Though some don’t even have this under their belt…
Communicating well goes beyond the actual exchange of words.
You know you’ve communicated well with your partner when after a conversation you feel connected, on the same page and positive. Even if the topic discussed is a challenge.
Here are some communication skills:
Presence and Attentiveness
Being present in a conversation is huge. Don’t you hate when you are trying to share something with your partner and as you are talking, they keep doing what they were doing, they are moving around, and they even walk away? They don’t like it either when you do it.
It is imperative that some attunement be established during interactions to create the moments you are looking for in your relationship.
Attunement is about having awareness, turning towards the other, having tolerance or holding space for the other’s feelings, showing understanding, having non-defensive responses and having empathy. This is necessary for the partners to synchronize and align creating regulation, resonance, and connection…
So, show up with your Best Self. Stop the fidgeting, the moving around, the doing, the leaving. Get involved in the interaction. Pay attention. Ignore distractions. Use eye-contact, touching and proximity. Attune…
Positive Non-Verbal Communication
Our tone of voice, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and body positioning send messages of their own. We might be trying to convey something, but at the same time we might be giving a completely different message non-verbally.
The key here is to be aware of how we are using the space we are in, how we carry our body and our face, and how we interact using our mouth and eyes…
Some basic things to consider:
- Turn your body towards your partner when they are speaking and mind the space between you, don’t move away but don’t crowd either. Keep your upper body open and leaning forward. Don’t cross your arms and legs, and specially not away from your partner.
- Be extremely mindful of your facial expressions. We can say so much with a smirk, a smile, a grin, a frown, a furrow, a pout and such. Our faces speak volumes.
- Pay attention to your gestures. This has to do with how you move your hands, your head, and other body parts. You can use these to tilt towards your partner and make soothing and comforting motions. You can be graceful and accentuating. Be careful of showing agitation, impatience, aggression and such.
- A super important aspect of non-verbal communication is the eye-contact. If you are trying to connect, get on the same page, and align, you have to have eye-contact… Without it, it is difficult to feel felt, to feel heard and to feel understood. And, by the same token, it is difficult to feel, hear and understand the other… It is challenging to build trust without it…
- And, single handedly, tone of voice can throw off the whole thing. Partners get tricky in their communication. They might use pretty language, but their tone is literally speaking louder than words.
Master this skill by being intentional about presenting consistently with what you are trying to convey.
Interest and Active Listening
Let’s say that you are not interested in what your partner is talking about. Let’s say they are talking about nutrition and all things wellness and you don’t give a hoot about that. How do you stay engaged in this kind of conversation?
Note, you don’ have to have the same interests, same views and agree on stuff to have a good conversation and to connect… This is a huge expectation and mistake partners make.
The key here is to be interested in your partner’s experience, feelings, perspective, preferences, what is happening for them, understanding their position or ideas and just being curious about your partner and their life…
It’s fascinating to be witness to how another person operates and what they are making of their human experience… Take your partner’s in! They are your Journey Partner. It behooves you to learn them…
With this mindset then it is much easier to be interested and show interest in a conversation. To ask questions, to genuinely wonder and want to understand and know. To get what’s being conveyed, and not just factually obviously.
Listen more than you speak, don’t interrupt, and reflect back what you are hearing. You got this.
Empathy and Compassion
This is a challenging area for partners. Specially for the one that is not as expressive or in touch with their feelings. If they are used to being guarded and have a tendency for blame and shame… If they have difficulties being vulnerable and tolerating vulnerability… Their emotional range is limited.
Having empathy means understanding and sharing the feeling of another person. Really getting how they feel. The other’s suffering is felt. It’s an emotional response.
Having compassion means understanding the other’s feelings and wanting to alleviate them or help. It’s a cognitive response.
Empathy precedes compassion, and without compassion empathy is exhausting as there is no outlet or opportunity to process the feelings…
We want to be able to be there for our partner and for then to know that we are there… The key here is to become more versed in feeling our own feelings, understanding the feelings of the other, expanding our emotional lexicon, and navigating how to be supportive to the other’s feelings.
This does not mean we offer how to fix things and solutions unsolicited!
Clarity and Succinctness
This is where things get tricky as partners usually have opposite communication and information processing styles.
The “male partner” is usually more on the spectrum side of linear thinking and speaking, cognitively logical, and data and facts driven. They are more precise and concise.
The “female partner” is usually more on the spectrum side of circular thinking and speaking, emotionally logical, and creativity and intuition driven. They are more ambiguous and long-winded.
There are pros and cons to both styles, and it gets messy in interactions the more the partners tend to polarize.
The key here is to go into a conversation or exchange with an understanding for the other’s proclivity and with a mindset of tolerance, acceptance and patience for the difference. And, then to mitigate the difference to get on the same page. This is where communication tools come in very handy.
Respect and Mindfulness
Hey, nobody likes to be talked down to, condescended, criticized, undermined, interrupted, yelled at, cursed at and such…
Being respectful in general in our relationship is paramount, and this even includes honoring requests and agreements, being PC and clean, not making jokes at the partner’s expense, not throwing them under the bus or divulging confidences, to name a few.
But more specifically in terms of communication, conversations just need to be respectful. Even if they escalate into a fight. Nothing good comes from crossing lines, being nasty, hurting your partner, and cutting at the bond cord between you…
Create a set of rules of expectations for communicating respectfully… Communication tools come in very handy here as well.
In terms of mindfulness, this is where we enter all interactions with a heart-based approach. Where we are mindful of our partner’s sensitivities, needs and preferences. We go in being mindful of the other human in the room with us… And, of how we honor and support them. How we can gift them with our brilliance. How we can synergize in this Journey…
Clarifying and Summarizing
If you’ve done fairly well with the above in an interaction, then this one is pretty easy. And if you haven’t this can be your chance to regroup and reset…
Clarifying is about stating what you are getting from the other’s message, making sure you are getting it, and asking any questions to clarify anything that you are not getting. It is about getting a full understanding of what the other is trying to convey.
This is not about translating, making it about you, sneaking in your point or side, and such. This is about totally getting your partner. This has to do with your partner feeling felt, understood and accepted. You don’t have to agree or love anything they are saying. You just need to get it, you need to get them. That’s the point of the exchange.
Partners have different experiences in the same interaction, even different interpretation and recollection of interactions. That’s ok, the point is to get their side not to agree. Additional communication tools come in handy here to assist in addressing the differences.
Summarizing is about recapping what you’ve gotten and are taking away from your partner’s sharing. This is how you feel you got somewhere… It’s impossible to have a good summary if the communication didn’t flow well.
Very often partners get stuck and start looping because they get hung up on the others’ language, what they assume they mean, and what motivates they believe the other might have… The person that’s supposed to be listening gets all prickly about how the other is talking and their message. This is actually not only a communication issue, but also a boundary breach.
NOTE: Your partner is not defending a dissertation, submitting a novel for the Pulitzer prize, or trying a federal case. Unless you are talking with the intention of making a decision about something, don’t get hang up on facts, data and precision. Experiences and feelings are not about that…
And definitely don’t correct grammar, language, pronunciation and the like unless there is an agreement between that it’s ok to do so for some reason… You are not the boss of how your partner speaks, communicates or shows up…
Now that you understand these basic, but not easy and yet very learnable skills, your job is to expand your repertoire and mastery of this area of communication. Then, pursue corresponding tools and voila, you are cruising with getting on the same page.
As soon as you start practicing these skills, you’ll notice a significant difference on how your interactions go and your ability to connect…
ASSIGNMENT: Share and explore these Communication Skills with your partner. Invite them to improve communication in the relationship.
Wishing you much joy, connection and love today and always…
With Love & Light!
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You are not alone, as if couples don’t have a challenging time creating their authentic, nurturing and amazing relationship to begin with. Add the additional current stressors we are experiencing through this global pandemic and partners are having a real hard time.
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Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT is the Founder and Director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC, a private practice that specializes in working with couples, she is the creator of the MetroRelationship™ philosophy and the Successful Couple Strategy™ that assist couples succeed at their relationship and their life. Stay Connected™ with Emma and receive weekly connection notes in your inbox with Personal Development and Relationship Enrichment insights and strategies, visit: www.metrorelationship.com