Even though we learn to communicate at such a young age, it can be so difficult to articulate our feelings about emotionally loaded subjects with our partners without making the situation worse. Fortunately, there are several approaches that can prove helpful if you and your partner are willing to put them into practice. Communication doesn’t have to be difficult!
1. Step back and slow down!
It is easy for our emotions to run amuck if we don’t check in with them. Take some time to evaluate your emotions and what they are trying to tell you. Is your jealousy or feelings of mistrust warranted, or have your past experiences triggered them?
- Most of us unconsciously repeat unhelpful behaviors because they have become ingrained as habits or instinctive responses.
- We can only change these through awareness.
- Plan what you want to say to your partner before speaking to them to decrease the chances of the situation escalating.
- Only begin a conflict to learn something new, express your feelings, or to solve a problem.
- Ask your partner if they would be willing to have a conversation with you.
2. Express strong feelings without blame.
When we experience emotions like jealousy and anger it becomes almost impossible to effectively communicate them to those we love. This, in turn, makes it difficult for us to really listen. Here are a few tips on how to express strong feelings without blame:
- When expressing strong feelings, use “I statements” to articulate what you are feeling.
- Be sure to state a feeling instead of a judgment after saying, “I feel”.
- Be sure to carefully describe your partner’s actions or behaviors without adding evaluations or judgments to it.
- Be honest! Speak your truth without blaming the other.
3. Listen to understand instead of listening to respond.
People often feel more inclined to listen to you if they feel understood themselves. Leverage to change comes from a common understanding between both of you not from convincing them you are right.
- Be aware of your internal barriers to truly listening, such as thinking you are right or having a strong opinion on the matter.
- Take responsibility for your own behavior and apologize for any wrongdoings.
- Accept your partner’s perspective and ask clarifying questions.
4. Build a culture of appreciation.
Remind yourself of your partner’s positive attributes and why you enjoy being in their company.
- Be sure to identify areas of agreement as well as areas of disagreement.
- Identify goals that are important to your relationship and to each other.
- Plan an additional time to converse over the topic if it was not resolved.
- Spend some time doing something you both enjoy or spend some time apart to reflect on the conversation and engage in activities you find rejuvenating.
5. Let go of the myths about conflict.
- Conflict is not a contest! Don’t make it one.
- Conflict is not always negative.
- Difficult conversations facilitate change when both parties are willing to adapt their behavior.
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Be sure to take plenty of time to review the tips above alone before having a tough conversation. Don’t be surprised if it takes practice to implement! It can take time to learn to communicate effectively, but the time and energy invested is well worth it when conflict is no longer a stressful, destructive force in your relationship and is replaced by respectful, open dialogue.