Yet, very few people witness a great model for healthy communication growing up. So then we unconsciously repeat the patterns that we witness.
But guess what, patterns can be changed...if you’re willing!
You’ll want to read all 5 mistakes all the way to the end because we also provide ways to improve this as individuals and as a couple.
Now there is a distinction between criticism and feedback. True feedback is intended to empower and support the other person in growth, and focuses on the action/behavior rather than labeling them. Criticism is an attack on someone’s character or labeling them in a harsh manner.
But tension arises between you when you give your partner feedback and they perceive it as criticism because they were not OPEN to hearing what you said. It can feel as though you crossed a boundary.
#1 Skill to Do Better: get permission to share first
This could sound like, “hey, I wanted to share something I’ve observed in our interactions…is now a good time?” or “Are you open to hearing something I noticed from the way we are parenting together?” The goal is that they feel you're coming to them with the intent to help, not hurt.
You’re interacting with your partner on a topic and you say something like, “That is not what happened. You say X, I say Y, then you did Z.” Your partner then says back, “That’s so not true! I said A, you said B, then we did C.”
Whether it’s about the sequence of events, your view on spending money, or how to handle things with the kids, your perspective is just one perspective. But if you speak in a way that sounds like it’s a FACT, you can trigger your partner in feeling not included or understood.
#2 Skill to Do Better: share your perspective, and be open to hearing from your partner as well.
This sounds like, “In my experience…” “From my perspective…” “The way I recall the situation is…” This feels much more open and inclusive. Remember, communication is about understanding each other, not being “right.”
Want to get better at communication with guided exercises? Check out The Couples Workshop coming up LIVE ONLINE.
We get it, you’re feeling something. And for many of us, we formed a pattern of expressing it in destructive ways, like: bottling it up and then exploding eventually, or saying it while yelling at our partner, or saying things you’ll regret because the emotion is so strong.
#3 Skill to Do Better: down-regulate your emotions first and consciously express
Look, your emotions are valid. You just need to develop strategies for how to process what you’re feeling before just taking it out on your partner. Down-regulating your emotions can happen with: going on a quick walk outside, meditating for a few minutes, just sitting down and doing some breathing exercises, journaling to process your thoughts and feelings, going to exercise at the gym, letting yourself cry or be mad in the shower alone. Pick some strategy for calming your nervous system down, then form a constructive way to express them to your partner at the right time.
Want some step-by-step exercises to get better at expressing your feelings and needs? Check out The Couples Workshop coming up LIVE ONLINE.
We get it, you’re trying to help. But you’re focusing on logic, when your partner is in their emotion. You can kind of consider those two different conversations: logic and emotion. When you try to “fix it” by giving solutions, talking about what makes sense, or even accidently pointing out reasons they ‘don’t need to feel that way because of x, y, z,” it can you trigger your partner in not feeling safe to just be emotionally validated.
#4 Skill to Do Better: find out how they’d like you to listen first
Becoming a better listener is critical to becoming a better human in general. Many times we assume what the other person is wanting in that conversation, rather than checking in first. Try to ask: “how can I best support you right now, would you like me to just listen or would you like feedback?” or “are you wanting me to just hear you or did you want to hear some ideas I have about this?” They will then get to choose what they’d like next.
Do you want some guidance on how to prevent conversations from escalating? Check out The Couples Workshop coming up LIVE ONLINE.
Look, just because you’re in a relationship with them doesn’t mean you get to just talk AT them or they need to be available anytime YOU want to talk about something. They are their own human being and healthy boundaries are important in a partnership. When you blindside your partner (you surprise them with a topic or just kind of walk over and start talking about it), it can easily escalate. This is especially true if the topic happens to be one where you tend to disagree or both have strong opinions.
#5 Skill to Do Better: thoughtfully initiate conversations and check that they’re available for it
Respecting your partner and bringing things up consciously can sound like, “hey, I wanted to talk about some parenting goals I have…is now good for you to sit down and chat about it?” “I know you had a long day today, so do you have the energy to chat about a few bills we received?” or “I had some realizations about how I’d like to grow as a couple…do you feel up for talking about it now on a walk?”
So, these are 5 common communication mistakes and the skills to do better. The key here is committing to practice these tools with each other and making progress week by week. Now we know that you want to feel progress in your marriage, especially around how you communicate.
Truthfully, you are NOT alone. That’s actually the #1 reason that over 900 couples have attended our Couples Workshop in-person. But guess what…..now YOU can attend from anywhere in the world because we’re hosting in LIVE IN STUDIO. You will be guided through step-by-step exercises, get to ask questions, watch us model the right and wrong way to communicate, and end the day feeling like you’ve made more progress than MONTHS of counseling or just trying it on your own. Don’t miss this date coming up, so read the details and save your spot here for The Couples Workshop