We all know what it’s like: you are in the middle of trying to resolve a conflict with your partner but you just feel like you’re running in circles. Nothing seems to have any constructive effect or move your conversation to some sort of mutual understanding. You seem to talk and talk and talk, trying to get the same message across over and over again. You ask yourself “Why doesn’t s/he listen?” as you try and try to be heard.
We’ve all been there. Communication with someone you love can be the toughest challenge in any relationship. The fact that there are so many emotions and expectations involved in this case doesn’t make it any easier. Throughout our years of relationship counselling at the Vaughan Relationship Centre, we have supported many couples with the same problem and helped them to be heard while also encouraging our clients to become more active and present listeners. Here is some of the advice that has helped many of our clients improve their approach to relationship conversations:
You need to be clear about the message and express how the situation makes you feel. The core issue is what matters, so don’t go overboard trying to beat your point into the ground. Also, express how it makes you feel from a non-defensive stance. Your partner is more likely to hear your emotion and respond to you. For instance, say, “I get worried when you don’t call when you are coming home late.” Say what needs to be said, try not to get carried away and then pause to give your partner a chance to absorb before you expect a response.
The sender and the receiver might understand a message very differently. We all bring in our own lenses and have our own triggers and sore spots that sometimes blur our views. To ensure that you are both on the same page and your message was heard the way you intended, check in with your partner after you’ve paused and kindly ask them what they’ve heard. Be patient if your partner does not hear everything you say. Sometimes a lot is said with a lot of emotion and it can be difficult for them to catch everything you say. To be clear that this is not an attack, maybe use a little more affectionate language here. This may come unnaturally to both of you in the beginning, but it will improve the effectiveness of your conversations in the long run.
Many people, driven by their temper in an argument, don’t realize that they not really listen themselves but instead anticipate making their counter-point as soon as the other person has finished. Become aware of those habits and make an effort to really tune in. Make eye-contact and genuinely listen. Try to understand his/her point before jumping to a response. Do this by reflecting back what you heard and for “bonus points,” reflect what you think they are feeling, before you respond.
You most likely you have had disagreements in the past but those have been already (or may still have to be) resolved. It is important that you stay with the issue at hand and don’t drift off into the past. Being clear about the core message will improve your chance to communicate what you mean to say.
Couples counselling can equip you with the communication tools you need to better resolve conflict with your partner. Book an appointment to discover how relationship counselling can help you and your partner better connect and communicate.