Can We Talk
On a scale from 1-10 (1 being the worst) how would you rate yourself when it comes to communication with your partner? Would your partner agree?
Early on in my relationship I thought I was a kick ass communicator. So naturally I would rate myself a 10. Little did I know, I actually sucked at it. My wife would have rated me a 1. 2 at the most!
Unbeknownst to me, speaking from my emotions didn’t mean I was effectively communicating with my wife (or children for that matter.) Rather I discovered that I was talking AT them and not TO them. Once I realized that was the case a whole new world opened up to me. I realized that talking too much can actually be a result of poor communication. If you can take away this one simple yet commonly overlooked approach, you are on your way to becoming a successful communicator.
So what’s the secret behind a successful communicative relationship? Well we already established talking TO your partner at not AT her as the first step. Next you need to be a good listener. Listening will get you further ahead than trying to prove your point. Listening works in conjunction with talking TO your partner. Oftentimes in my earlier communication experience, I found myself defending my actions instead of listening to how my actions affected my wife (or children.) While my intentions may have been in their best interests it’s not about being right. It’s about listening to how everyone else is affected by what you say and more importantly HOW you say it.
I recall as a child when I would get into a disagreement with my father. Impatiently I would demand a reason why he was being so stubborn when he would say no to one of my requests. I’m sure we all can relate to that ever-annoying statement “But why not?” (said in a whining tone of course.) After multiple attempts to change his mind, my father would simply respond with the following statement “Because I’m the father!” Well how can a child possibly compete with a response like that? Interestingly I find myself often feeling entitled to that same response as a dad to my 3 children today. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself when I take that position. I’m finally able to see how allowing my children AND my wife, of course, to have a voice allows me to effectively engage in successful communication. It doesn’t mean that what they say will change my mind. However, it does open my mind to understand their viewpoint and perhaps find a compromise to our situation.
Granted these suggestions may seem like verbal skills 101, but unfortunately most times we take for granted what we say and how we say it. We let our emotions speak for us which in turn perpetuates the earlier behavior explained of talking AT instead of TO your wife or child. You’d be surprised how noticing this one simple fact can alter the outcome of your conversation for the better.
So next time you come to that pivotal moment in your communication with your partner or family that seems to be creating tension and conflict, take a step back and think about whether you are really doing your part to make the communication effective. Once you can catch yourself falling into old habits, you will begin to notice a shift for the better. Remember it won’t happen overnight, it takes practice.
Have some insight to share on your communication success? Please add to comments below.