Communication seems like an idea that should be so easy, like common sense even. However, that is so far from the truth. Communication is a vital part of our everyday interaction with everyone we come into contact with. And it is even more vital in terms of relationships with your partner or significant other, whether it be your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend.
How many times in your relationship have you had a fight or an argument with your partner, only to realize when it was all said and done that it was only a simple little miscommunication? You misunderstood something he said, or took it the wrong way. He took something you said out of context and didn’t truly understand your meaning behind it all.
It is so easy to have the perception that you and your partner are on the same page, but when it comes down to it the two of you are thinking and feeling something completely different. How do you ensure that you are truly on the same page, and not just think that you are?
There are always those topics that you dread bringing up or getting into. Sometimes those topics that are the hardest to talk about are the ones that you really NEED to talk about.
Communication is a skill that needs to be developed and strengthened. This could be one of the major contributors as to why so many relationships are failing. People do not know how to communicate clearly. Communication is dying. miscommunication then leads to a misunderstanding, most often leading to hurt feelings. When feelings and emotions are involved it can often develop into anger, defensiveness and justification. Sometimes even leading to a break down in the relationship that could have been avoided if communication were stronger between the two involved.
Often times a conflict in beliefs or ideas can create a situation leading to miscommunication. Each person is completely unique mentally and emotionally and unless we can help our partner to understand where we are coming from and why we are feeling the way we are, miscommunications are inevitable. A lot of times it is not about the bit of information that was miscommunicated or misunderstood, sometimes it is about how the situation is handled. Rather then get angry or frustrated about it, step back and try to understand it. How the situation is handled can make all the difference. Anger, yelling and cursing at the other person does no good, but only serves to make things worse. Do not let your anger take over. Another point to consider is that sometimes when it comes to a conflict in beliefs or ideas, you may just have to agree to disagree. Be able to come to a compromise or agreement of some sort that works for the both of you. It is not always possible or realistic for each person involved to get exactly what they hope for. This is when compromise is important.
I believe that it is easy to neglect something like communication in a relationship, or begin to take someone for granted because you may think that our partner will “always” be around. Sometimes you may neglect to focus on empathy or putting yourself in the other’s shoes. When two people are in a loving and committed relationship i think it is important to always think of and consider the other’s feelings and thoughts in every situation. Everything that you do and every decision that you make has the potential to effect the other, whether directly or indirectly, positively or negatively. It is important to have an understanding of that and remember how important it is in helping to ward off conflict.
When there is a break in communication, a misunderstanding can cause a lot of problems and emotional upset. For some people the first reaction after a misunderstanding is to just let it go, brush it under the rug and forget about it. When you do this, these misunderstandings hardly ever get resolved and lead to even more upset, getting worse over time, which in turn can create feelings of resentment and a lack of connectedness. No one wants to feel a disconnect from their partner. This is something that needs to be addressed and cleared up so it does not grow and grow into something so big it gets out of hand.
So many problems are caused by a simple misunderstanding. Problems that possibly grow into something bigger and bigger. If only we could all communicate better and avoid these misunderstandings in the first place. When i feel confused or upset about an issue, my first reaction is to try to understand it, to try to get more information about it so i can better understand what is going on. Ask questions, reiterate what your partner is saying in your own words to make sure you understand what they are saying. It’s not just about hearing what is being said, it is about actually listening and understanding the information.
Communication can be such a subjective thing, being more about perception than actual fact. I was in a training on communication in the past and the presenter had a couple of exercises for us that i found pretty interesting. In one exercise she gave us all a blank sheet of paper. She asked us all to close our eyes and follow her directions. Her directions were simple; 1) fold the paper in half. 2) fold it in half again 3) now tear off the right corner 4) flip it over and tear off the other corner. That was all there was to it. Simple, easy directions. However when we all opened our eyes we found that everyone’s paper looked different. Some people had holes in the center, some on the edges. Even though everyone was following the same directions, their perception of it was different. Another aspect was the detail. Some of the information was not detailed enough to get the full picture. We did not know to fold the paper in half lengthwise or which corner to tear off. If there had been more detail, there would have been less miscommunication. This is just an example of how communication can vary, and putting it into a visual example was truly very interesting.
I found some tips on About.com on successful communication skills.
“Conflict in a relationship is virtually inevitable. In itself, conflict isn’t a problem; how it’s handled, however, can bring people together or tear them apart. Poor communication skills, disagreements and misunderstandings can be a source of anger and distance, or a springboard to a stronger relationship and happier future. Next time you’re dealing with conflict, keep these tips on effective communication skills in mind and you can create a more positive outcome.”
Stay Focused: Sometimes it’s tempting to bring up past seemingly related conflicts when dealing with current ones. Unfortunately, this often clouds the issue and makes finding mutual understanding and a solution to the current issueless likely, and makes the whole discussion more taxing and even confusing. Try not to bring up past hurts or other topics. Stay focused on the present, your feelings, understanding one another and finding a solution.
Listen Carefully: People often think they’re listening, but are really thinking about what they’re going to say next when the other person stops talking. Truly effective communication goes both ways. While it might be difficult, try really listening to what your partner is saying. Don’t interrupt. Don’t get defensive. Just hear them and reflect back what they’re saying so they know you’ve heard. Then you’ll understand them better and they’ll be more willing to listen to you.
Try To See Their Point of View:In a conflict, most of us primarily want to feel heard and understood. We talk a lot about our point of view to get the other person to see things our way. Ironically, if we all do this all the time, there’s little focus on the other person’s point of view, and nobody feels understood. Try to really see the other side, and then you can better explain yours. (If you don’t ‘get it’, ask more questions until you do.) Others will more likely be willing to listen if they feel heard.
Respond to Criticism with Empathy:When someone comes at you with criticism, it’s easy to feel that they’re wrong, and get defensive. While criticism is hard to hear, and often exaggerated or colored by the other person’s emotions, it’s important to listen for the other person’s pain and respond with empathy for their feelings. Also, look for what’s true in what they’re saying; that can be valuable information for you.
Own What’s Yours:Realize that personal responsibility is a strength, not a weakness. Effective communication involves admitting when you’re wrong. If you both share some responsibility in a conflict (which is usually the case), look for and admit to what’s yours. It diffuses the situation, sets a good example, and shows maturity. It also often inspires the other person to respond in kind, leading you both closer to mutual understanding and a solution.
Use “I” Messages: Rather than saying things like, “You really messed up here,” begin statements with “I”, and make them about yourself and your feelings, like, “I feel frustrated when this happens.” It’s less accusatory, sparks less defensiveness, and helps the other person understand your point of view rather than feeling attacked.
Look for CompromiseInstead of trying to ‘win’ the argument, look for solutions that meet everybody’s needs. Either through compromise, or a new solution that gives you both what you want most, this focus is much more effective than one person getting what they want at the other’s expense. Healthy communication involves finding a resolution that both sides can be happy with.
Take a Time-Out:Sometimes tempers get heated and it’s just too difficult to continue a discussion without it becoming an argument or a fight. If you feel yourself or your partner starting to get too angry to be constructive, or showing some destructive communication patterns, it’s okay to take a break from the discussion until you both cool off. Sometimes good communication means knowing when to take a break.
Don’t Give Up:While taking a break from the discussion is sometimes a good idea, always come back to it. If you both approach the situation with a constructive attitude, mutual respect, and a willingness to see the other’s point of view or at least find a solution, you can make progress toward the goal of a resolution to the conflict. Unless it’s time to give up on the relationship, don’t give up on communication.
Ask For Help If You Need It:If one or both of you has trouble staying respectful during conflict, or if you’ve tried resolving conflict with your partner on your own and the situation just doesn’t seem to be improving, you might benefit from a few sessions with a therapist. Couples counseling or family therapy can provide help with altercations and teach skills to resolve future conflict. If your partner doesn’t want to go, you can still often benefit from going alone.