5 Tips for Couples to improve communication
- Leona Lasse
- June 14, 2018
What does “good communication” in couples look like?
Top 5 tips:
When couples come to therapy, one of the most commonly expressed hopes is that they want to improve their communication.
This can mean a few things, for instance, some people will try and communicate with each other but just end up fighting, other people don’t fight at all, but are distant and avoid communicating because they are trying to avoid potential conflict.
Still others, will try and express their needs, views and feelings, but do not feel that their partner has really heard them or responded in a way they would’ve hoped for.
So, how can we communicate with our partners and not experience these negative, upsetting and potentially damaging interactions in our relationships?
How can we strive for good communication?
The ideas that follow come from the work of Dr John Gottman, who has done extensive research into couples and what makes them “succeed”, or otherwise
(see www.gottman.com and his concept of “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).
Begin Gently – Gottman’s research has indicated that the first three minutes of a conversation can predict (with 96% accuracy), how it ends. If you start in a harsh way, by being critical or using a harsh tone, then your conversation will likely not end well. So, start gently and approach your partner with kindness and caring.
Reframe a criticism you might have into a complaint – If you have an issue you’d like to address with your partner, instead of attacking them as a person, talk about the issue, how it has impacted on you and try not to blame your partner.
Listen – if your partner voices some of their own concerns, do your best to listen and resist the urge to plan your counter attack. If you give into this urge, you won’t really hear them and then communication stalls. If your partner voices a complaint, try to be open. Take a deep breath to calm yourself and instead of becoming immediately defensive, try and take some responsibility for (at least part of) the issue, hear them out and respond with love and generosity of spirit.
Be kind – sometimes when conversations turn into conflicts, emotions can run high, people feel wounded and react by going on the attack. They might call each other names, become mocking or
sarcastic and even get quite nasty. This is NOT doing your relationship any good. So if you feel like the situation is escalating, take some deep breaths, remember that you have a choice in how you respond and choose to foster your connection, not damage it. Describe your feelings and refrain from describing your partner’s negative attributes. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed and losing control, let your partner know that you need a break so that you can calm down and that you will come back and finish the conversation when you are in a better frame of mind (use that time to calm yourself).
Repair – if things do get out of control and you or your partner have become critical, defensive or nasty, attempt to repair, by saying something like “I’m sorry, that came out wrong, can we start again?”, or you could try to repair by physically reaching out to your partner for a hug. It is important to know what works for your partner here, for some, words might be best and hugs might not be the best option, so talk to each other about this, because just as important as making a repair attempt, is that the other person receives it. This can open the way for connection, understanding and good communication.
Some problems in a relationship may never be resolved and will play out over and over in your relationship like a loop. This is where your or your partners schemas may be involved and could be getting triggered. Over time these patterns of interaction can become like vicious cycles and lead to hurt and distance in your relationship. More on this and how our schemas might play into our couple relationships in my next post…
GradDipPsych, M.RehabCnslg, M.Couple & Family Therapy
To make an appointment to speak with Leona, call us now – 0427 088 176