3 Quick Tips: Couple Communication

Did you know that only 7% of communication is received through the actual content (words) of what is being said? 93% of how people receive something that is being communicated is through its context: The tone (38%) in which it is said and the sender’s body language (55%).

It makes sense, then, why texting and hiding behind social media feels so safe for many people in conflicted relationships…they are saving themselves from a chance of possibly being misinterpreted or “losing it” on their partner. Works great, right? Think again.

It’s all in how you express it. Don’t look at it as having a 93% chance of screwing up, but as a 93% opportunity of getting your message across successfully. Put the phone away and ask yourself “what is the desired outcome I would like to see from what I am about to say? What do I hope to accomplish by this conversation?” Rule out any intention to “win” a battle or “prove” yourself right…that will get you nowhere. After all, you are on the same team, right?

Consider these three tips as you embark on your journey of healthy communication:

1 .Anything you want to communicate can be stated kindly.

That’s right. Whether you are wanting to communicate anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, or any “negative” thought or feeling, you can express it in a way that does not leave the listener needing to put themselves on the defense. Use I-Statements to relay your experience because it is just that, yours.

“I feel _______ (feeling) when ________ (behavior) because ______.”

“I felt frustrated and lonely when I came home to a long list of unfinished chores because we had committed to working as a team on the household responsibilities.”

This sounds much better than “You never help me with anything around the house! You are so lazy! How did I even end up with you?”

2. Anger is a secondary emotion.

Did you know that before you feel angry, you feel something else? Something else that is much more vulnerable and sensitive…and something that we will quickly repress or ignore (sometimes subconsciously) so that we don’t have to sit with the discomfort of that feeling. Yes, anger is a secondary emotion. It is much safer to feel- and show- anger because it leaves you feeling more in control of your feelings (at least, you think you are). It is what we usually feel more than our initial feelings.

Some of the primary emotions people experience before anger are:hurt, sadness, loneliness, shame, despair, and fear.

So, next time you feel the fumes coming, or see your partner’s anger thermometer rising to breaking levels, remember that there is probably a lot of hurt and pain underneath that. This is not to justify anger, but to understand it. If you or your partner may be struggling with anger issues, seek some guidance from a therapist or mental health professional.

Quit Taking It Personally”

That’s right…quit! Because, chances are, whatever you feel is coming AT you is not actually ABOUT you. For more on this, check out my blog post “You’re Not That Special, But You ARE Special.”. Many times, people are trying to express themselves and that is just the best they can do in that moment. Don’t take their best, or their worst, personally. It’s not about you. It’s 100% about them and their ability, or inability, to adequately express themselves.

My best advice is this: focus on being the change you wish to see in your communication. Do you do what you request of your partner? Do you safely communicate your thoughts and feelings? Do you take ownership of your own “stuff”; your thoughts and vulnerable feelings? Do you complain about what they did or didn’t do, or do you request what you would like to see change?

Be the change.