By Sheri E Ragland
I have learned from listening to many couples as well as from my own relationships that poorly managed communication or the lack of communication leads to conflict in a relationship. Conflict can have short- and long-term effects on a relationship and prevent couples from moving forward. There really is no one simple ingredient that makes the communication process simple and perfect. However, with thoughtfulness and persistence in practicing a few key elements, you can define a communication blueprint that can be developed over time into a style that works for your dynamic relationship. I feel there are a few key areas that are worth elaboration because they are often neglected by couples trying to manage their communications. Here are a few things to consider in order to develop your communication style.
Step 1 – The first thought for consideration is for you and your partner to think about unresolved arguments due to escalation. In moving forward, you both can learn to address each issue by answering the following seven questions. Write your individual answers to each one of the seven questions and think about where the source of discontent began and why.
- What was the argument over?
- Has this been your first argument over the issue?
- Were you both able to talk about your thoughts without interrupting each other?
- Do you both have a difficult time understanding each other’s point of view about the issue?
- Do you both focus solely on the facts of the issue?
- Have you forgiven each other and apologized for issues?
- Have you both defined a solution to the problem? And, has the solution worked?
Step 2 – So you both have answered the questions. Now, find time to discuss you answers with thought and care. Think about the similarities as well as the differences in your answers and discuss each one of your answers calmly and respectfully. Be sure not to blame and criticize each other because it is highly unproductive and further exacerbates the communication process. Answering the questions and then having a discussion should become the foundational blueprint for understanding your partner’s thinking and keeping it in mind for future discussions. The process takes consistent practice.
Step 3 – The process of answering questions then discussing them can be repeated with each issue you argue about until you realize that the communication process requires you both to consider each other’s feeling and thoughts as well as find a resolution. The goal is for you both to find a resolution, while considering each other’s opinions and thoughts. Keep in mind that all issues may not be resolved. You may need to dismiss the issue and move forward. Only you as a couple can determine the importance of an issue and whether or not it is worth any more of your time and effort. An indicator that an issue is an unnecessary disrupter is that you continue to lose valuable time discussing something that cannot be changed or resolved. Here are four key strategies that should be included in your communication process so that it becomes a part of your style guide.
Embrace each other’s differences in thinking. It is not always about being right or persuading your partner to see your point of view. Sometimes it is about being open-minded and seeing things from another perspective regarding issues. There is nothing wrong with thinking differently as long as you both can discuss an issue in a healthy manner. In essence, open-mindedness is a skill that can lead to a more productive relationship. The goal is for you both to talk about any issue openly and respectfully.
Listen to your partner. The point of listening promotes fair communication and helps you to understand what is important to your partner even though you may not always agree. Listening also promotes calmness, respect and open-mindedness. It is an invaluable trait that comes with maturity and patience.
Leave the past behind. Another disrupter for couples is not realizing that focusing on the past prevents them from moving forward. It is perfectly fine to recognize positive points from the past and reflect on them. But, to just dwell on negative points not only limits your thinking and frame of reference, it is a time waster. Use your past to help you consider the consequences of your decisions today and to not make the same costly mistakes in the future.
Have faith in your partner. Change takes time and persistence from you both. You have to be willing to commit to your partner by doing what is right. The communication process requires commitment over time as well as support. Couples are much more successful when they believe and encourage each other through the communication process.
This three-step plan is meant to encourage couples to develop a healthy communication process and engage in it consistently over time so that it becomes their style. It is not a quick fix process because each couple is unique and dynamic. However, it is necessary to define a communication process that fits a couple’s relationship needs. There are key elements that are necessary for every couple to consider, such as listening, focusing on positive aspects of the relationship, having faith in your partner, forgiving, and respecting each other at all costs.