If you’re convinced that you and your partner don’t communicate, you may have tried many ways to improve your communication with each other, with poor results. You may think that telling him over and over will do the trick. You may believe that raising your voice will get her to listen. All that results is a shouting match that ends up in hurt feelings and silence, or worse.
You are, in fact, communicating. It’s just not working like you want it to. Here is a list of ten ways to improve your interactions with your partner to increase your chances of a successful dialog with each other.
Try them out and be patient with yourselves as you begin this journey. Remember, Michael Jordan didn’t become a professional basketball player in a day. It took years of work. So it is with relationships. You learn and work everyday to become the people you want to be, together. Enjoy the journey. It’s worth it!
1. Ask to schedule a time to talk. Wait for an answer and thank your partner for agreeing to a time.
2. Set a time limit. This should be no more than an hour, and preferably 15 to 20 minutes. If your partner realizes that you honor her/his time, she will be more willing to do this again (and perhaps for longer next time).
3. Stick to one topic per conversation. This is easier to do if you set a time limit and stick to it. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming your partner. If you want to talk about another subject, ask your partner if its all right. If not, ask to schedule another time to talk.
4. Timing is everything: Pick a time when you are both well rested and calm. It’s counter-productive to grab your partner as soon as he walks in the door or when she is tired.
5. Use Assertive Language. These are phrases like:
“I would like _____________.”
“I don’t like ____________.”
“I would prefer ___________.”
“I feel uncomfortable about ___________.”
6. Request what you would like instead of demand. Use questions like:
“How would you feel about __________?”
“What do you think about ___________?”
“Would you be comfortable with __________?”
“Would you consider ____________?”
7. Accept “no” as a valid answer. Your partner has a right to disagree and to say no. When you choose to argue with a “no” answer, youre saying that its not OK for your partner to disagree with you or to say no.
8. Ask for what you want, not what you dont want. This may seem confusing, but if you’re requesting that (not demanding) your partner change behaviors, express it in terms of what you want to happen:
“I would like to make the housework more even. I would like to see you do more ___________. What are you willing to do?”
9. Respect yourself and your partner. Beware of statements that begin with “you.” Unless the words “are the most wonderful person in the world,” come next, “you” statements often are blaming, labeling, critical statements.
10. Express your appreciation about the things you like that your partner does. Appreciation is the glue of relationships. Your partner will listen to you easier when you give large doses of appreciation on a regular basis. Caution: it wont work if you only use appreciation when youre trying to get something done (“I love how you wash the dishes so thoroughly. Oh, look, theres a sink full now.”)
Remember, these are guidelines to help improve your communication skills. They may seem stiff and artificial at first. Keep trying them out and you will develop your own, more effective style as you practice with the people you care about the most!