Please enjoy this guest post on effective communication by our friend, Dr. Anne Hancock, a Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of Wellness Counseling Center.
Whether you’ve been married for years or are starting a relationship, all couples have issues that pop up — often at the most unfortunate times. Finding a way to effectively communicate before those potential boiling points is key to staying steady as a couple — even under pressure.
Conversation vs. Communication
First and foremost, note that conversation and communication are not one and the same. You can converse with someone without making an emotional connection. This is where communication comes into the picture. You communicate using verbal techniques by talking. However, you also communicate effectively through writing, especially via technology such as text messaging and social media. You communicate with body language, as well. In fact, physical communication is just as important when transmitting your feelings to your partner.
Altogether, these skills allow couples to discuss those tough issues that are driving a wedge between them. Without healthy dialogue, you can never break through to the heart of the issues, which is where you are able to solve these problems.
Here are five ways you can improve your communication at any point in your relationship.
Develop Positive Communication Skills
Developing beneficial communication skills, orally and with writing, is essential to the process. Otherwise, you get stuck in an often-vicious negative loop. Break that cycle by using positive written and verbal language. Avoid negative language — such as, “I never” or “You won’t” — that sets the wrong tone for your partner, regardless of the rest of the statement. Stay attentive to what he or she is communicating. Resist interrupting your significant other verbally, even if you have an excellent point in agreement.
Consider the Timing
Timing is everything — especially when trying to communicate a difficult issue. Find the best time to talk that is convenient for both of you. Optimally, you will both be calm and not stressed to rush out the door to work. Consider scheduling a meeting so that both of you can prepare mentally and physically for the best results in communication. Also, implement the 48-hour rule to help ensure you both had enough time to think and reflect on the situation or issue.
Identify Cultural Differences
In a new relationship especially, cultural differences may often shock partners. You might have done some activity a certain way your entire life — only to learn that other people have a different concept about it. Food, religion, language, rites of passage and socioeconomic standards are just some of the cultural differences that play major roles in the way we behave overall. Take this into consideration and identify cultural barriers and linguistic differences that could make communication difficult. This is the first step in finding a solution to overcome those barriers.
You will never always get your way — and neither will your partner — if you are in a healthy relationship. It is all about practicing diplomacy so you both get what you need from the relationship at some point. Say one partner wants to enjoy an outing to an opera performance this weekend as part of his or her social and cultural growth. Then, when the other partner wants to take a trip to see a WNBA game, both attend in equal enthusiasm. Diplomatic practice in communication says that both partners attend and give it their proverbial all, in terms of being a good sport.
Be Ready to Ask for It
A relationship involves two people who both need to be active participators. This includes being prepared to ask if you need something from your partner or the relationship. Of course, you have to put in the personal work to understand your needs before you can do this. That is your responsibility as a beneficial partner. You cannot expect your partner to pull all of the weight in communication — it has to be a two-way street.
Understanding that communication involves more than just talking at each other is the first step to a healthy communicative partnership. These skills will help you develop the foundation for communication that will support your relationship for the long haul.
Thanks again to Dr. Anne for her guest post!
Author bio: B. Anne Hancock, PsyD, is a prominent marriage therapist and founder of Wellness Counseling Center. A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Hancock specializes in working with couples and families. She has a doctorate in Psychology and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Hancock always works from a wellness-oriented, non-pathologizing point of view — which means no blame, no shame. In addition to couples counseling services, Hancock also conducts personalized two-and-a-half-day couples intensives.