Communication in relationships is probably the most vital skill to understand and master; one that I will drum into you through every section of this relationship guide. Without good communication, it is easy to misunderstand your partner and for things to unravel unnecessarily. Picture the following scenario for a minute. You receive a text from your partner that says “Don’t touch the laundry”. How do you interpret it?
How perfect! I’m granted permission to a chore free night. What movie should I pick?
Bloody hell! Something else I can’t do right, clearly.
Communication is a mix of sending messages and receiving them, and is always open to interpretation. It is also impacted on by the way we feel, the immediate circumstances around us at the time, and history within the relationship. So the odds are if you are in a good mood, having a great day and are in a good place in your relationship, you will lean towards a positive interpretation of this text. However, the opposite also applies. If you are in a bad mood, just been yelled at by a customer or had a fight with your partner last night, you may well assume that the text is about having a go at you. A lot of communication issues are about misreading your partner’s intention or wishing that your partner could read you like a crystal ball. Either way, communication skills involve the right words, tone, body language and a willingness to assume the best, rather than automatically assume the worse.
|I remember receiving her text that she would cook dinner for our second date. I mean every other time I would have been keen, but this time, all I could think of, was the burnt chicken I made the night before and how she said she was full after one mouth. But I didn’t want to ask her about her motives either…. To this day, I still don’t know whether she was implying I sucked as a cook or whether she was just returning the favor!|
|OMG. I had no idea that my wife would turn into the exorcist. I kid you not. It was THAT bad. Just visualize my wife, my happy wife, possessed by a demon able to turn her into a demanding, tears stricken, needy monster. And yet, as she would sleep, a mask of contentment on her face, her belly wobbling from my son dancing inside her, I knew I wanted this. I wanted this woman and this child like I never wanted anything else in my life…|
When thinking of verbal tone, think of adjectives that could be attached to the words you are using. Descriptives such as aggressive, passive, sad, happy, passionate, interested, threatening, dull or warm/cold are examples. If your partner said “I love you” with an aggressive tone, how would you interpret the information? Unlikely at face value. Similarly, if you partner said “I love you” at high volume or high speed, how would you interpret it? Lastly, if they said “I love you” with a warm tone and a slow paced speech, how would you then feel about it? Probably pretty darn good compared to the other versions!
Finally, consider your body language. Do you find yourself staring at your partner when speaking? Making lots of hand movements or invading their personal space? What happens when you smile, gently hold their hand when you address them or simply look at them when they’re asking a question? I bet it is different. Think of examples where your body language might have said a different story and how the mixed messages may have confused your relationship. Body language is as important as your tone and the words you actually speak.
|We had decided to watch old home movies from fifteen years ago. And so here we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, having the time of our lives. I recognised our couple, and the husband I have loved for 17 years, but what I didn’t recognise what the way he spoke softly to me and the way I waited till he was finished speaking to answer him. There definitely was a different tone to our exchanges and the way we ‘danced’ through our communication.|
A couple of easy tips for the day…
- 1- Using “I” messages
Consider those two statements.
“You make me feel stupid when you talk about the car,”
as opposed to
“I feel stupid when we talk about the car,”
What do they both imply? How would they both make you, and your partner feel in a conversation about the car? The odds are that the first one would make your partner feel like you’re blaming them for feeling stupid, while the second would imply that your lack of knowledge about cars make you feel stupid. In short, the first statement may cause your partner to become defensive while the second statement may make them feel protective of your vulnerable feelings. And yet, as above, in essence, they imply a very similar thing. Consequently, it is in important to learn to communicate about our thoughts and feelings using “I” messages, because it can dramatically change people’s reaction to what we are trying to say.
- 2. Using the “PCiR” model © (“Positive Communication in Relationships”)
The art of communicating with your partner lay in a very simple method. The components to this formula include using an “I” message, the request, reason for the request and feedback from your partner.
It basically sounds like this in practice:
“I would really like you to finish the lawn moving on Friday, so that the yard looks good for little Johnny’s birthday party on Saturday. Would that be ok with you?
“I was hoping to go out with my mum on Sunday to the markets, I could do with a girls’ day out. Do you think you’d be ok with that plan?”
My family has often commented that communicating between partners shouldn’t be that much work! However the reality is that 90% of the couples I see in therapy attend my rooms for communication issues that could be resolved quickly if they only practiced those simple exercises. Communicating in a polite, non-blaming, respectful and positive manner is the key to a successful relationship, and if you have the tools, you should try to use them!