Can't We Talk Without Losing It?
How many of you learned effective communication skills growing up?
Learning how to communicate and respond effectively to feedback wasn't part of school. I wish it were because then by the time you grow up, relationships would be so much easier!
Here you'll learn the how to avoid the common pitfalls and learn how to talk things out.
- Blaming the other person
- Using "you" statements
- Becoming defensive
- Letting your anger get out of hand
- Name calling and insults
- Forcing the conversation
- Making assumptions
- Avoiding conflict
- Needing to be right
Get Agreement First
Many arguments start when one person forces the issue when the other one isn't ready. This is how arguments get heated quickly, over the little things.
Next time you want to talk, ask first. If it's a serious topic, give the other person a heads up. Getting agreement up front shows respect and improves the outcome - even if this is the only change you make!
What to say:
"Tonight, I'd really like to talk about the budget. Are you up for that?"
What if they say no? Negotiate a good time. Usually, one partner is more eager because they need to vent. Giving your partner the time they need builds trust and promotes resolution.
What if they still don't want to talk?
Think about what contributes to that. Do they typically avoid conflict? Are they afraid of your response? If you think you know the likely reason, check it out.
"I'm wondering if you don't want to talk because we usually end up fighting."
Dealing with the reason they don't want to talk is critical to get the conversation back on track. These suggestions can help restart the communication.
Using I Messages Effectively
When you're trying to get your point across, it's important to know how to express yourself assertively. Here are some examples.
"I felt really hurt when you didn't call me back."
"I felt angry when you told your mother I couldn't handle our son."
Both examples state the facts of what happened. There is no judgment, criticism or generalizations. These are clear assertive messages that don't blame. Say how you feel without making the other person wrong.
Express opinions rather than facts. That way, it comes across more inviting and less righteous. People have a harder time arguing with an opinion!
Recognizing Early Signs of Stress
Stress left unchecked becomes anger so catch it early.
Most people don't realize how stress impacts communication until it's too late. Screaming, throwing things, making threats and even violence happens fast if you are not aware of your stress level.
Before you start a potentially difficult conversation check your stress. Manage those feelings first then come back when you're calm.
It takes energy to listen and communicate assertively. You'll also be better equipped to handle a negative response - if you're not too stressed.
Listening Goes a Long Way
Generally people are focused more on getting what they want more than listening to what's being said. If someone gets defensive, breathe and let them vent. Defensiveness escalates the argument so stay calm. It takes two to tango!
Letting the other person "vent" helps them feel heard unless it becomes abusive. In that case, you need to protect yourself first.
Feed back what you hear. Include what they might be feeling, even if it's a guess.
"Okay, what I hear you saying is that you're frustrated and feel unappreciated at home. Is that right?"
If it's not, ask again. This is important because it does two things. It validates - not agrees with their point of view and makes them feel supported. You avoid judgement.
"Okay, what I heard you say is that I'm no good for you and this isn't working. Is that right?"
I purposely picked this statement because it assumes the negative. Checking your assumptions out gets you back on track. It gives the other person a chance to clarify what was said.
When recognizing your stress, know when to use a time-out. There is a simple rule of thumb, if you can't listen, stop talking.
Time-outs are not a way to get out of dealing with the other person. It's a planned break to calm down. Not to go out with friends or skip out for a few days.
Research shows that it takes 20 minutes to reverse the physical signs of stress. To read more click my blog on Managing Anger with Time-out.
There is one person that tends to avoid conflict. This is usually out of fear. Here are some tips when avoiding conflict is an issue.
- Write about the past experiences that are related to how you see conflict.
- If you uncover abuse or trauma, counseling or support groups may help.
- Start practicing "I Messages" when there isn't conflict.
- Let your partner know what you need to make conflict easier.
- Discuss how each of you can use time-outs early to feel safe.
By changing how you communicate, you'll build healthier connections, one small change at a time!
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