Are you in a serious relationship or marriage and are struggling to work together to understand life? Are you arguing about silly things?
Every situation and all relationships aare unique and will require a tailored approach to communicating effectively. There is no “right” or “wrong” way of communicating. However, there are a number of relatively simple strategies that are likely to give you the best chance to successfully get your message across and hopefully bring about change in a relationship.
Here are some tips to make these important conversations happen (and go as well as possible), starting with the importance of proper preparation. We hope these tips will help you as you get ready for a difficult or important conversation in your relationships.
- Carefully plan what you would like to say. Be as specific as possible. Identify the issue, your related emotions, and what behaviour changes you are requesting. Write down the most important points.
- Anticipate how you might manage the interaction. What thoughts or reactions you may have that could be unhelpful in the discussion.
- Practice what you want to say, on your own, in front of a mirror or with a friend. Ask a close person for advice and feedback.
- Use empathy, which is to walk in the other person’s shoes. Consider how they might feel and respond to the discussion.
- Choose your time wisely. Ensure you have enough time to address complex issues, you’re not too tired, and there are no interruptions or distractions. If it is likely to be distressing, allow time to calm down before bed or before continuing with your day.
- Remain calm, relax your muscles and slow your breathing. This will allow you to think clearly and respond in a considered manner. It will minimise reactive emotional responses.
- Stay focused on the specific issues at hand. Refer to your list if you go off track.
- Give the discussion your full attention. Ensure all distractions (i.e. mobile phones) are removed or dealt with before the discussion continues.
- Listen. Effective communication is a two way process. Hear the other person’s point of view, reflect and summarise what you have heard to ensure you understood.
- State what you would like clearly and precisely. Have the other person reflect back to you their understanding and clarify where necessary.
- Express your feelings as your own and do not blame the other person for how you feel such as saying “You make me feel….”. It is less confrontational to state “When you do x, I feel y…”
- We all vary in how we see situations and how we believe things “should” be. To communicate your perspective use “I” statements such as “I would like….”, “I would prefer….”, and “I want….”.
- Throughout the discussion be flexible with one another. Maintaining a healthy relationship requires compromise.
Improving your communication is an ongoing process of reflection, discussion and learning. If you would like to improve your skills in communication in relationships Creating Change Psychology and Counselling can assist you. Please call us on 02 8883 3185.