If you find yourselves arguing the same issues repeatedly and not getting any closer to a solution, or small conflicts quickly escalate into heated shouting matches in which one or both of you “lose it”, these ten tips for better communication will help.
1. Pay attention to body language when you talk
When you're in conversation with your partner, pay attention--not to just their words, but their body language, as well.
While we'd all like to believe that our partner conveys what they're thinking and feeling with words, that's not always the case.
The truth is that body language tells you a lot more about what's going on in a conversation than what's being said.
From how a person stands to how they hug, their body language can show what they are thinking but not always saying.
2. Be open about what you need. Your partner cannot read your mind.
Have you ever found yourself saying to your partner “you should have known that’s what I wanted” or “How could you have not known that would upset me?”
This is a mind-reading problem. However, whether it’s emotional support, sex and affection, help to solve a problem, or whatever else—don’t expect your partner to know what you want or need without telling them.
3. Put yourself in each other’s shoes.
Instead of trying to change or fix the feelings of the person you love, focus on connecting with them. Do this by putting yourself in their shoes.
Remember a time when you felt truly heard and listened to. How did it feel to be recognized for who you were and how you felt?
Putting yourself in your partner’s shoes means listening carefully to what they are saying, listening without judgment, feeling what they are feeling by connecting to that same emotion within yourself, and validating their perspective even if you don’t agree.
Say things like, 'What I hear you saying is...' and 'I understand you're hurt because...'"
4. Avoid struggling with who is right or wrong.
The fact is, that you will always believe you are right in your world, and your partner will always believe they are right in theirs.
Arguing about whose view is right, is a waste of time.
Instead, try to build a bridge between both your worlds by being interested and wanting to understand each other’s point of view.
5. When tensions rise, call a timeout
When you’re having a disagreement, it’s healthy to call a timeout any time you’re feeling frazzled or stressed. You don’t have to come up with a solution right away.
When you become overwhelmed with emotion, your body may react with the “fight or flight” response.
"Fight or flight" refers to when stress hormones give people more energy so they can either fight the thing that is making them feel stressed or run away from it. "Freeze" mode is when a person doesn't do anything at all, hoping that the stressor will stop caring about the fight. In conflict, the stressor is your partner.
When a couple is in this dangerous zone, it's hard to solve problems. In those moments, someone needs to call a timeout.
And you can frame this timeout in a way that doesn’t make your partner feel like you’re simply walking away. Say “I really want us to have this conversation but I need 10 minutes to calm down. We’re going to come back to this and we’ll figure this out.
6. Work together, not against each other.
The goal of communicating to resolve a conflict is to bring about some insight and resolution, not hard feelings and anger.
Remember that you are in this relationship together and working towards a common goal is the best way that you can both feel happy in the lone run.
Sometimes you’ll need to let down your defenses and acknowledge that you need to work together.
7. Keep your voice at a speaking level, not a yelling one
When your voice gets too loud or angry, your partner will probably get upset and stop wanting to continue talking.
Staying calm and level-headed during a heated conflict is tough, but raising your voice to a shouting level will never help you find a solution.
8. Stick to the issue at hand, and in the present.
If you keep fighting over different things but you always seem to end up on the same issue, that issue is actually where your work needs to be.
Don’t bring up things from the past or irrelevant details just to prove your point. It’s the quickest way to send an argument off track.
9. Stay away from using “you always” or “you never.”
Use specific examples of what your partner is doing, not general ones.
Nobody is “always” or “never” doing anything and using these words will just make the conversation worse.
10. Agree to disagree
If you and your partner can't figure out how to solve a problem, it may be best to just let it go. You can't always agree, and it's important to pay attention to what really matters.
If the issue is too important to drop and you can't agree to disagree, it may be a sign that you need more help and that might mean speaking with a relationship counselor.
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