communication tips

5 Communication Tips

5 Com­mu­ni­ca­tion tips — when cou­ples have issues, the rea­son, almost 100% of the time, is lousy com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Here are 5 com­mu­ni­ca­tion tips, but also have a look at my book The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever. 

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Intro­duc­tion: What we’ve got here is fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate — 5 com­mu­ni­ca­tion tips
fight

Ele­gant com­mu­ni­ca­tion… NOT!!

Vir­tu­al­ly all “cou­ple issues” are com­mu­ni­ca­tion issues. Super­fi­cial­ly, the top­ic may be finances, sex, child-rear­ing, or what­ev­er, but under­ly­ing it all is the qual­i­ty and reg­u­lar­i­ty of the couple’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Let’s look at a few things that might help you improve in this area.

By the way, if you haven’t down­loaded our two free book­lets on Rela­tion­ships, you obvi­ous­ly haven’t been explor­ing our web­site. Here’s a link to our free­bies page.


1. Start Now — at least 20 Minutes a Day

Man, have I ever heard a ton of excus­es for not com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Usu­al­ly, a vari­ant of “Don’t you know how busy I am (life is)?” Then I’d get the run-down about how tough things are at work, how the kids are in 20 activ­i­ties each, and how mak­ing 20 min­utes a day for one’s part­ner / spouse was impossible.

spinning plate
It should­n’t be so hard!!!

What’s real­ly being said? “I don’t want to have to put in any effort at all in my rela­tion­ship. It should ‘just work.’ ”

And how’s that work­ing for you?

Most folk have this odd dream that being with the ‘right per­son’ means, “Now I can relax, and every­thing will work out just fine.”

Since this nev­er hap­pens, the sil­ly and dumb among us think something’s wrong with their partner.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a skill. It’s like learn­ing a for­eign lan­guage, as no one is a born communicator. 

Occa­sion­al­ly peo­ple think Dar­bel­la and I are ‘nat­u­rals’ at it, and blow me off on that basis. The truth is, we have made clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion a top pri­or­i­ty, and we don’t allow mis­takes to stand.

Take away point: Start today. Sit down with your part­ner, and estab­lish some ground rules.
1) Fre­quen­cy (no excus­es) of at least 20 min­utes per day.
2) Shar­ing: how (includ­ing using a timer) you are going to split the time
3) No inter­rup­tion rule. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion requires lis­ten­ing, not defend­ing your position.


2. No excuses

This fol­lows from point 1.

You must drop the idea that being in rela­tion­ship is, or is sup­posed to be, easy. Sad­ly, most peo­ple haven’t read my book, Find Your Per­fect Part­ner, and thus are in rela­tion­ship with some­one like­ly from one of the fur­ther rather than near­er plan­ets. Despite this, (which you set in motion…) excus­es are going to get you nowhere.

Busy­ness: yeah, right. There’s a gun pressed to your head, forc­ing you to say ‘yes’ to every­thing. Since when is say­ing ‘yes’ to every­thing a clever strat­e­gy? And if this was so, how come you’re not say­ing ‘yes’ to deep, inti­mate con­ver­sa­tion with your partner?

Bore­dom: I sus­pect most of my clients find their part­ners to be bor­ing and unin­ter­est­ing. (And, of course, they’re too chick­en to say “I’m bor­ing myself in this rela­tion­ship…”) There is so much eye-rolling and talk­ing over, so much walk­ing away, and fight­ing. This is a vari­a­tion of “I’m in rela­tion­ship with the wrong per­son!” Our advice: leave, or get interested!

Take away point: Many are the excus­es for stay­ing stuck and sim­ply com­plain­ing and blam­ing. Excus­es are the cre­ation of lazy minds. If you seem to have lit­tle time, have a con­ver­sa­tion about how this keeps hap­pen­ing, and work with your part­ner on learn­ing to say ‘no.’ If you’re bored, tell your part­ner how you are bor­ing your­self (hint: it’s nev­er about your part­ner) and sug­gest spe­cif­ic ways to do some­thing interesting.


3. Use “I” language

I lis­ten to cou­ples talk, all the time, and with poor­ly func­tion­ing cou­ples, the pro­noun most used is 2nd per­son — a form of ‘you.’ The main uses are to blame and to psychoanalyze.

Again, this is the result of lazi­ness and a decid­ed lack of self-responsibility.

Judge­ments (blame) are always about point­ing the fin­ger at oth­ers. You did this, you did that. See how bad­ly you treat me. And then, a sit­ting back, arms crossed, and an expec­ta­tion that one’s part­ner will change.

How rude.

The odd piece for me is that such blaming/demanding is always one sided. Each part­ner doing this expects the oth­er to do what they are told. Yet, when the part­ner toss­es out their list, the reac­tion is, “How dare you tell me what to do!”

Instead, shift the pro­noun to ‘I’ — “I am uncom­fort­able with our lev­el of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and here is what I am going to do about it.” “I am sad that (what­ev­er) is hap­pen­ing, and here is what I will do to change this.”

Take away point: “You” lan­guage feeds into the prob­lems men­tioned above.
“You” lan­guage main­tains the sta­tus quo, sets up pow­er strug­gles, and places respon­si­bil­i­ty for change on the oth­er per­son.
“I” lan­guage is self-respon­si­ble lan­guage, and when fol­lowed through with, leads to change.


4. It’s almost never about what you think it’s about

The main rea­son for a good com­mu­ni­ca­tion style is that you can talk about what’s real­ly up for you. Sad­ly, most peo­ple fear the ‘big’ issues, so they talk sym­bol­i­cal­ly.

If you loved me, you’d spend less time at work.” Maybe the per­son real­ly is camp­ing out at work, but almost always the real dilem­ma is this: “I am mak­ing myself feel dis­tant from you. I think I’ve been aban­doned, and I’m miss­ing you, and I fear you no longer love me.” Notice that the first state­ment is about ‘stuff,’ and the sec­ond cuts to the heart of the matter.

Now, re-read the sec­ond state­ment. Giv­en the “I” lan­guage, the sen­tence real­ly says, “Here is the sto­ry I am telling myself.” There is no blame, no demand, just a clear state­ment of “Here is me, right now.” Note: “I fear that you do not love me” is dif­fer­ent than “You don’t love me.”” The first is self-respon­si­ble and about the speak­er. The sec­ond is blam­ing and mind-reading.

Take away point: Ask your­self what you are real­ly upset­ting your­self about, and talk about that, using “I” lan­guage.
If you are on the receiv­ing end of an hon­est, “I” cen­tered state­ment, thank your part­ner for shar­ing, and ask, “Is there any­thing I can do?” The authen­tic reply: “Yes, here is what you can do right now.”


5. Curiosity trumps ‘knowing’

No, you don’t know what’s up for your part­ner. Once you tru­ly grasp this, you’ll stop sec­ond-guess­ing and start ask­ing.

In the above sce­nario, the “Is there any­thing I can do?” ques­tion is also a “Is there any­thing I can do right now?” ques­tion. You can’t fix the past, and you can’t fix the future. You can do ‘right now,’ as that’s all there is.

The ‘com­mu­ni­ca­tion key,’ if there is one, is to stay in the now. Here is what’s up for me, right now. here is what I want, right now. Here is what I hear, right now.

Once you get the hang of this under­stand­ing, you will also get that guilt and blam­ing is always about lists of past events, to which the present event is pre­car­i­ous­ly attached. Again: it is impos­si­ble to fix old stuff. You can only work, do, be, in the Now.

Thus, you might also under­stand that your remem­bered his­to­ry with your part­ner is use­less in the ‘now.’ Since this is so, your only option is to ask, “What can I do, right now?” “How are you, right now?”

In oth­er words, when on the receiv­ing end of any state­ment, your choic­es are defen­sive­ness or curios­i­ty. Guess which one leads to a fight, and which one leads to more information?

Take away point: Once again, decide. Do you want to fight (and there­by avoid deal­ing with the big ques­tions), blame (there­by escap­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for where you are) or do you want to deep­en the rela­tion­ship? If the lat­ter, get curious!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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