At certain times in our relationships we find it difficult to communicate. How many times has a simple comment turned into an argument because of a misunderstanding? You find yourself defending your words, gradually tempers rise and you feel a sense of confusion about what you are really saying.
You may be able to talk to each other after the emotions have subsided and explain your position. Perhaps getting to a stage where you feel understood and heard. But sometimes you may find that you hold the emotion inside and try to get on with life and brush it aside. Over time, especially in a close relationship, these unresolved feelings build up and resentment can start to effect the way you behave towards your partner.
This resentment may come out as sarcasm or spite, rolling eyes or silent brooding. You may have even forgotten the original cause of your frustration. You find yourself in a relationship where it’s difficult to hold a conversation about anything without feeling angry, hurt or defeated.
Setting time aside to talk about your feelings with your partner is a good way to start. Snatched conversations while cooking or watching television will lead to more unsatisfactory outcomes. Really think about the main topic you want to talk about and try and remove all the smaller issues that have surrounded the main one. This may take some thinking and it’s good to organise your thoughts on the core of the issue.
For example; if you have been arguing about the housework think about what the feelings are underneath. Are you feeling tired, overworked and in need of a break or are you feeling unappreciated and taken for granted? Starting the conversation with “You never do any housework” would probably lead to another argument – whereas, “I’m feeling tired lately, can we talk about how we manage the housework?” would be much less confrontational.
Learning new skills to communicate well helps us to express our needs more clearly and leads to deeper understanding. Here are some tips:
Be very clear on the topic of the conversation and think about how you ask for it.
Stay with the topic, if it veers off course, gently bring it back to the subject, you can always note down other issues that come up to talk about another time.
Think about what you want to say and identify the feelings underneath. These are your feelings and so start your sentences with “I think/feel…” rather than “You made me…”.
Some words can be provocative such as “always”, “never”, “should” or “shouldn’t” – avoid these ones. If you slip up, mention it and change the words.
Listen attentively and check you’ve understood what’s been said, sometimes repeating back is a good way to really hear what’s been said – it also gives the other person a chance to hear it again and change it if they need to.
Don’t block the conversation by interrupting, expecting, mindreading, making assumptions, dismissing the other person’s feelings or going silent. Apologise if you notice yourself doing this and listen carefully to what’s being said.
Don’t bring up old arguments or events unless your topic is about a specific incident in the past.
Don’t use other people’s opinions to back up your own argument, be specific and express your own thoughts and feelings.
If you feel as though tempers are rising, postpone the conversation until you have both calmed down.