Great communication has to do with smoothing things out and feeling Aligned. It has to do with getting on the same page, feeling understood and accepted, and getting traction towards a vision in common. Unfortunately, partners get in their own way when interacting with each other which prevents the flow of joy, harmony and love that is possible when doing this well. Let’s remove the roadblocks to great communication. Shall we?
First off, be extremely careful not to employ what John Gottman calls the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse in your communication and approach to your partner: Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt.
Gottman is a researcher who has a research-based approach to relationships. If you are struggling in your relationship, you might be already acquainted with the 4 Horseman… Once Contempt shows up, the relationship is in trouble. This creates painful and damaging exchanges. Contempt is a strong predictor of divorce!
The easiest way to avoid these is to be preventative in your communication approach to begin with. If you employ great communication skills and tools, you won’t be finding the 4 Housemen at your doorsteps.
And hey, I’m not one to give up or let others give up easily… So even if these are currently present in your relationship, I encourage you to work your side to stop doing these and to invite something else from your partner…
Here is where Relationship Mindset, personal ownership and effective boundaries come in very handy. These are important for you to change how you choose to look at and experience your partner and your relationship… For once you do so, you can show up differently and invite something different from your partner…
In any case, aside from keeping the 4 Horseman away, you also need to avoid the Dirty Dozen of Communication in your interactions.
The Dirty Dozen of Communication
1 – Addressing needs or concerns when triggered
When we are in a triggered state, our brain is marinating in emotional juices that prevent us from fully accessing the executive, logical and problem-solving part of our brain. This means that no matter how hard you try to get on the same page it’s virtually impossible to stay sensible and productive.
This is not a judgment against feelings. Feelings have their place, but when rampant and heightened they don’t support productive communication.
2 – Using electronic devices as modes of communication
It is so interesting that partners choose to address concerns on social media and other platforms, via email, and specially via text. I realize that we live in an age of electronic communication, but so much gets lost via this medium…
A communication approach needs to include visual, audio and physical presence so you can feel the energy better and include touch as you see fit. This ensures you are able to pick up all the nuances of the communication and align with more than just words. And so that the words are not taken out of context or misinterpreted.
3 – Addressing issues on the fly
It is unproductive to throw issues out into the air and expect our partner to catch them and play nice with them. It’s unfair to expect them to catch them at all, and then to be ready on a whim to give the topic the proper attention it needs.
Nothing serious should be tackled this way as the context might not be conducive for a deep and productive conversation, and our partner might not be receptive for whatever reason. A productive conversation happens when the partners are ready to have a productive conversation. Setting up time and the proper context goes a huge way.
4 – Starting conversations when not in a good state
If you or your partner is not in a good state, it doesn’t make sense to have the conversation. This is true even if the conversation was set up properly ahead of time. If either of you is hungry, tired, still triggered, and such, you are not resourced enough and won’t have what it takes to do the conversation justice.
In this case it is best to reschedule or postpone the conversation and address other needs first.
5 – Disregarding good communication skills and tools
You might start a conversation with the best of intentions but as soon as things get a little hot, all the skills and tools go out the window. This is why it’s very important to be resourced, so a little heat doesn’t throw you off.
Also, setting up the conversation properly ensures you bring your skills and tools with you. A less intentional approach might miss this important detail…
Using your skills and tools is a decision. Make it wisely and honor it. Don’t get lazy. If you find that you feel like disregarding the skills and tools or that you can’t access them, then it’s not a good time to have a meaningful conversation…
6 – Forcing conversations
Remember you both have to be in the right place, and stay in the right place, for a meaningful conversation to take place and continue. If this is not true for either of you, or if things change as the conversation is underway, then it’s time to call it. Either postpone the conversation or pause it…
Do set up another time to pick up where you left off and make sure you do so. This sets up a precedent to be able to not push to have conversations that are not likely to go well in the moment… It creates trust allowing for a necessary cooling off or resetting period.
7 – Not really listening, paying attention or taking in the other
What’s the point of having a conversation if you are not listening, paying attention or taking in your partner? The point of having a conversation is to understand and get each other. To get on the same page. To resolve concerns. To collaborate. To dream. To share love.
If you are not present, if you are listening to combat what you are hearing, if you just want to talk about your side, you are missing the point of having the conversation… In this instance, you might as well forego the talk as you are actually creating more damage by not mindfully showing up…
8 – Not having personal accountability and ownership
You’ll find it insightful and eye-opening to revisit in your mind’s eye a past interaction with your partner that didn’t go well.
When you revisit, make believe you are an invisible stranger observing the exchange. This stranger is a relationship expert and has successful relationship tactics know-how…
See how the stranger sees you and how you are interacting… Does the stranger think you are being accountable for yourself, showing up with your best self, and fully owning yourself?
The stranger is not there to observe your partner, they are only able to see you… What do they see? Do they think you are doing the best job you can? What might they offer you as feedback?
Take this feedback to heart and make the necessary changes going forward…
9 – Track-jumping and messy content
Decide before hand what the topic of discussion is and the intention for the conversation. The quickest way to lose each other, trigger each other, and to shift from the possibility of a great conversation to one that crashes is to be messy in what you bring up…
Avoid jumping from topic to topic or example to example, going off on lengthy tangents, not fully finishing your thought or sentences before changing to something else, and such…
And avoid using sensitive information or already addressed and resolved issues to make your points! There is nothing more hurtful than to use your partner’s sensitivities, especially things shared in confidence or during vulnerable moments.
Take the time to organize your thoughts, your message, your point and stick with it as you go. Stay mindful of not hurting your partner unnecessarily, and especially not intentionally.
10 – Making a federal case
The point of a conversation with your partner is not to win. That’s right, there is no winning in a relationship… If you “win” that means your partner “loses”, right? And, if that’s the case, did you actually “win”?
When you go about a conversation as if you are trying a federal case, everybody loses. There is no logic or empirical data that’s relevant to getting on the same page… Everything about a relationship is subjective, emotional and personal…
Therefore, stop with trying to prove how things really happened, and who is right and who is wrong, and keeping a scorecard!
Tactics like analyzing, interpreting, diagnosing, questioning, probing, and arguing have no place in a conversation where you are holding space for your partner to show up and for you to really get them…
Conversations are not about me vs you. Conversations are about me getting you…
11 – Being aggressive in speech, attitude or behavior
The simplest way to create friction, misalignment, and invite poor reactions from our partner is to show up protecting ourselves, trying to win or one-up our partner. When we try to force our way in some way, it is destructive.
This can take a lot of different forms, but the not-so-obvious ones include: Ordering, directing, commanding, warning, threatening, admonishing, and the like…
12 – Patronizing in some form…
Believe it or not, some things that we might consider positive in interactions are actually not great forms of communication… These include things like: Praising, agreeing, supporting, reassuring, sympathizing, consoling, advising, giving solutions, suggesting and such. The reason for this is that we are infusing ourselves in the interaction with these tactics…
A conversation has two parts, being there for our partner and our partner being there for us. Being there for our partner means absolutely and fully getting their side without infusing anything from ours into it… It means not corrupting their experience with ours…
This is a huge concept, as most of us use the above to be supportive, understanding and such not realizing that we actually undermine, minimize and dismiss the other’s experience when we interject ourselves into it… Just hold space for your partner’s experience and their truth…
Let’s say that you don’t have great communication skills and tools yet. Being mindful of avoiding the above will take you a long way as you expand your great communication skills and tools repertoire.
The key is to bring as much mindfulness and positive intentions to your interactions as possible.
ASSIGNMENT: Make a list of all the poor communication habits and undermining tactics you tend to employ in your communication and interactions with your partner, and others for that matter! Select the two that are the most pervasive, and commit to eradicating them from approach.
Being an intentional and mindful communicator is a gift to your partner and your relationship. And, to you, as upgrading how you communicate will definitely bring your relationship to the next level. You CAN create the relationship you desire…
Wishing you much joy, connection and love today and always…
With Love & Light!
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Copyright (c) 2021 Emma K. Viglucci. All rights reserved.
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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