Healthy Communication Tips #1

Communication can be a real challenge.  Men and women are very different (no kidding!).  The Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus books hit it spot on.  I highly recommend reading them.  Below are some tips and suggestions on healthy communication.

Have you ever found yourself in an argument with no idea how it occurred?  You said one thing and it either came out completely wrong or was taken the wrong way.  You quickly find yourself saying you didn’t mean that, you get upset or defensive because you’re under attack, or you’re doing damage repair with a loved one that you hurt accidentally.  What just happened!?!?

Ugh!  It’s tough.  There are some good tips about communication that can help you.  Understand that not all of these work for everybody, and not every relationship or marriage works the same way.  All relationships have strife and all couples argue.  Arguments do not necessarily mean that you have an unhealthy relationship.  Arguments are necessary!  No relationship or marriage is perfect and I’d rather have my wife or a trusted friend challenge me than have them say nothing.  Although some of those discussions have been rather uncomfortable, I would not be the person I am today if I had not been open to being challenged.  I believe that if you truly care about someone, you’re going to speak up when you see something going wrong.

The following are some basic tips for communication.  These are described in more detail below.

  • Be Intentional
  • Choose Your Timing Carefully
  • Be Open to Talking (Or Listening)
  • Who Owns the Problem?

Part of good communication is being intentional about it.  Asking your spouse, “What can I do better?” may be scary but it’s important.  It communicates that they are important to you and that you love them.  It can also be surprising.  At times when I’ve asked that I’ve been surprised by the answer.  As my pastor said mentioned in a sermon, we can’t see our own blind spots.  There may be something you think is a huge issue but it’s really something else entirely.  But – don’t ask if you’re not prepared to hear it and work on it!

A couple of other aspects of being intentional are timing and intent.  Choose your timing carefully.  While it may be tempting to blurt out what’s on your mind as soon as you think of it, the timing may be poor.  Ask to talk to the person and agree upon a time.  If you’re the one being asked, don’t set up a time and then avoid it.  Be open to talking.  Try not to talk when you’re mad.  This is obvious but it bears repeating.  We all have the bad habit of saying things we don’t really mean when we’re hurt, scared or angry.  Be open to listening.  One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your undivided, non-judgmental attention.  Everyone wants to be heard and understood.  A great way to reduce tension is to validate the other person’s feelings – even if you don’t agree with them.  Telling your spouse, “That’s got to be really frustrating when I do that” can really reduce tension.  Even a simple, “I’m sorry that happened” can be very helpful.

Intent is also important.  Why are you bringing this up?  Is your desire to become closer to the other person, reduce tension, or improve the relationship?  Is there something going on with them that you’d like to help with?  Or are you in the mood to strike back and attack them?  Are you upset, stressed out, hurting or taking things personally?

A good question to ask yourself is “Who owns the problem?”  Is the issue you want to talk about your issue, their issue, or a shared issue?  If it’s your problem and you’d like their help, ask for it.  Say, “I’ve got a problem and I’d like your help.”  For example, if you’re feeling hurt and frustrated because you want to spend time with them but they’re distracted by social media, own it.  Instead of yelling “You’re always texting or on Facebook and you never….!”  Try saying, “I’ve got a problem and I’d like your help with it.  I really look forward to spending time with you after the kids are in bed/you get home from work. When I try to talk to you and you’re looking at your (phone/computer/tablet) I feel hurt/sad/frustrated because I miss you.  What do you think about us agreeing to not being on social media or texting after 9:00?”

This article is not meant to provide clinical, therapeutic or legal advice.  This is not a substitute for professional therapeutic help.  If you’re in need of professional help, please contact a professional.  This is offered as educational information only.