Have you ever been trying to talk with your partner about an issue that is difficult for you or has been a point of disagreement between the two of you and one or both of you simply shut down and close the other out? As you probably already know, the way in which you communicate about this tricky topic can make the difference between you two moving closer together and reaching a resolution or the two of you moving further apart.
You may have experienced past discussions where, on some level, communication breaks down and one or both of you disconnect. This place of disconnection is not only detrimental to you and your mate reaching a satisfying agreement about the tricky topic, it can also stand in the way of your relationship being as close and loving as it can be.
Here are 10 relationship tips to help you connect while communicating…
Tip #1: Tune in first
If at all possible, take a few moments by yourself to tune into your feelings about what it is you want to communicate with your mate. Ask yourself if there are other factors contributing to you feeling stirred up about the issue, acknowledge them and then approach you partner from a calmer and clearer place.
Tip #2: Intend to connect
Again, before you approach your love to talk, take even a couple of seconds to set an intention. Make it your intention and priority to connect with your partner. Sometimes challenging discussions turn into a competition about who is right and who is wrong. Enter the conversation intending to connect as you communicate. This intention can help set the tone for your whole exchange.
Tip #3: Speak with integrity
Just because your intention is to connect, we don’t encourage you to be dishonest about how you are feeling or what you want. Connection is not about always agreeing or going along just to keep the peace. Know what is true for you and then be courageous enough to stand by what you want and believe.
Tip #4: Avoid telling stories
We all engage in some amount of “storytelling” or making assumptions about someone else’s experience or thoughts. Become aware of the stories you tend to tell yourself about yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Ask yourself if you know those stories to be true and if you don’t, be willing to let go of (or at least temporarily suspend) those beliefs.
Tip #5: Make communication agreements
If necessary, ask your mate to make an agreement with you about how you will communicate before you begin your discussion. You might choose to set a timer to ensure that you each have uninterrupted time to say what you need to say and then listen to the other person during his or her time. You could also agree that if either of you need to cool off while communicating, you will allow that time but will also specify a new time in which you two will come back to the topic.
Tip #6: Focus on feelings
As you speak with integrity what is true for you, keep yourself focused on feelings. Using “I statements” can be helpful. For example, “I feel fearful when I don’t know your plans.” If you find yourself saying something like: “I feel that you are lying to me,” this is not an “I statement.” Emotions such as mad, angry, sad, frustrated, glad, and happy can help you effectively say what you are feeling.
Tip #7: Be curious rather than accusing
Perhaps the biggest way to shut down communication is to launch accusations at your mate. If your intention is to communicate to connect, then try to shift away from accusing. Instead, get curious about what is going on for your partner. For example, rather than accusing him or her of forgetting a date with you, make a request for information– and truly be curious about the answer. You might combine an “I statement” with curiosity and ask something like: “I felt worried when you didn’t meet me for dinner at the cafe last night. I’m wondering if we miscommunicated about the time of the date or if something happened to prevent you from meeting me?”
Tip #8: Know your partner’s triggers
If you’ve been with your mate for a period of time, you probably know what triggers him or her. These triggers could stem from past experiences– even all the way back to childhood. Irregardless, be aware of specific words or phrases that are “hot button” for your partner and make different choices. They are undoubtedly different triggers than you have, but honor them just the same.
Tip #9: Stay open and present
A conversation is most certainly a two-way exchange. While you can’t force your partner to act or react in particular ways, you can encourage openness as you, yourself, stay open. Listen to what your mate has to say rooted in this present moment. Try not to zone out or fixate on what you plan to say next. Give your partner the presence and openness that you would like given to you.
Tip #10: Learn a new “dance”
Just about every relationship falls into patterns and habits that help create a dynamic or “dance” the two people usually repeat over and over again. If your relationship “dance” has been to communicate in ways that are disconnecting, recognize that and learn a new “dance.” Without judgment, identify the habits and patterns that prevent your relationship from being as close and connected as you’d like it to be and then take steps to release the old and create something new.