A blog reader recently asked me to post some basic communication tips he was hoping he and his wife could try. So here are some quick thoughts–a few tips, some don’ts and some do’s, to promote conflict resolution. Or to avert it as much as possible.
1. Don’t wait for the heat of the moment. Attempting conflict resolution in the heat of the moment can be disastrous. Try to communicate difficult issues when you’re both at your best—calm and level-headed. I often hear people say they don’t want to “rock the boat,” but if you don’t deal with what bothers you, the weight of the burdens could sink your ship anyway.
2. No name-calling or profanity. If this is what gives you a sense of power in your interactions, you’ve already lost some. Name-calling and profanity generate hurt feelings that get in the way and can be hard to forget. Let your power come from well-thought-out and respectful communication, which will set your partner up for better listening and a kinder response.
3. No yelling. This one is difficult in the heat of the moment but important for the same reasons stated in #2. Sometimes we become louder and more animated when we’re angry, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. Some people have lesser tolerance than others for raised voices. If your volume upsets your partner, you’re not setting the stage productive conversation.
4. Use “I” statements. Using the word “you” tends to put people on the defensive, and will set you up in opposition to your partner. This is not a good dynamic for communication or problem solving. Help your partner to understand your position and how you’re feeling. It will help you move forward. Here’s an example: “I was really embarrassed that everybody at the party knew how I lost my job,” is more productive than “You’re always saying stupid things.”
5. Move forwards, not backwards. Stay focused on the current issue. Conflicts can be hard enough to deal with, but will get harder and harder as the list gets bigger with every argument. Past issues will get in the way of solving the one in front of you.
6. Cool off if you need to. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, things can get heated. It’s okay to take a short time out if it will help you think more clearly and communicate more effectively–and if you get back to the topic rather than avoiding it. Calm yourself down, then get back to it.
Best wishes to you in using these six tips to improve communication and conflict resolution with your partner. Please contact us if you would like one of our therapists to help you out!
Wendy Yurk, MS, LPC