Today I want to talk about basic communication skills. While these skills can be used in all relationships, they are especially important for couples. We need to be able to listen and understand our partners with the goal being to learn how to take turns speaking and listening without interrupting.
Basic communication, meaning good communication, is an important characteristic of a healthy relationship. So, if you want to improve your relationship, you need to improve how you communicate with one another. Most people think of communication as using words. However, listening is just as important. You need to have a clear understanding of what your partner is saying in order to respond appropriately. So, how can you do this?
The first step in basic communication is being direct in what you want to say. You need to tell your partner, in specific terms, what is bothering you. One way to do this is by using “I” Statements. Some examples of these statements are “I feel angry when ….” or “I am sad because…” These statements are simple, yet powerful because they keep the focus on you. There is no blame being ascribed or finger pointing which keeps your partner from feeling defensive.
The second step of basic communication is reflection. Have your partner reflect back what he or she heard you say. For instance, they might say “I heard it makes you angry when I ….” This may sound hokie or feel uncomfortable at first. That’s OK! With practice it will feel more comfortable and natural.
The third step of basic communication is confirmation or clarification of what your partner reflected back to you. You can say, “Yes, that’s it.” OR “No, that’s not quite right. I meant ______.” If your partner did not understand and you had to clarify, please sure to ask for reflection and then confirm/clarify. It is important that you repeat these steps until your partner completely understands what you are trying to communicate.
The final step in basic communication is to give your partner the opportunity to express how he or she is feeling. Once your partner has an understanding of how you perceive the problem, allow him or her to express their feelings about what you’ve said by following the same steps: be direct, reflect and then confirm/clarify. You cannot solve the problem if there is not a clear understanding of how each of you feels.
Remember that learning a new skill is a process and takes time. Give yourselves permission to make mistakes and keep practicing!
Until next time…