You probably think you are doing a good job at communicating with your partner, but are you really? Have you ever had wondered, “Why don’t they understand?”, or thought, “I could not say this any more clearly, why don’t they get it?”
Communication between partners can be complicated. And sadly, good communication skills are often not used as effectively as possible. Although each person is likely to say they communicate well, different styles of communication and different priorities in communication commonly lead to misunderstandings and, at times, complete shutdown. It is even possible that you might be pushing your partner away and not even realize it.
So how do you know if you are communicating well or contributing to separation and disconnect? Ask yourself the following questions.
• Are you direct?
Mind reading is not a talent most of us posses. When you have something to discuss coming at it in a roundabout manner is generally ineffective and confusing. So is ambushing your partner with a problem weeks after the fact or disguising your upset/concern as something else. Instead, be direct, rational and timely with your words. Frank and direct conversation, no matter the nature of the topic, will ultimately net a better result.
• Do you hear or listen?
Many of us behave passively when involved in a conversation with our partners. In other words, you are aware that they are talking, but are distracted or mentally elsewhere during the conversation. As a result you miss key points or non-verbal communication. This behavior communicates disinterest and disrespect to your partner and can cause distance to grow between you. Make sure that when your partner is talking you stop and actually listen to what they are saying. This involves facing your partner, making eye contact, and asking clarifying questions as needed.
• Do you think from both perspectives?
It can be difficult to do, but try on a regular basis to think about your partner’s perspective on things. This is not just during an argument. Doing this often and in a variety of situations is helpful. No matter how long you have been together each person’s view of a situation will be different. It is easy to take for granted that knowing your own view means that theirs is somewhere in the same realm. That is not often the case. Their perspective may be complimentary to yours on many things, but you might find yourself surprised at the way they feel about some things. Making an effort to understand, and be considerate of, your partner’s perspective is imperative for healthy communication.
• Do you ask enough (or too many) questions?
There is no magic answer to this. Questions express interest and help you really understand another person. Too many, or done in an accusatory manner, however, will have a negative effect. Striking the right balance will require you to rely on your active listening skills and powers of observation. As a general rule, questions that express genuine, positive curiosity and care can open the lines of communication. Open-ended questions that give a person an opportunity to talk, and you an opportunity to listen and learn, are also helpful in open communication.
There is not a perfect formula for communication in a relationship. What good communication looks like will vary to some degree from couple to couple. The important thing is to remain aware of the importance of communication, work to maintain it, and for you each to be respectful of the differences between you.
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