Do you and your partner struggle to communicate?
If so, you’re not alone!
A lack of good communication is the number one thing couples complain about.
It’s no wonder. Effective communication is what creates happy relationships!
This post will give you some of the basics of how to communicate effectively in your relationship. You’ll also discover a special technique that will help make your difficult conversations go well.
Keep reading and start improving your communication skills now!
Why It’s Important to Get Communication Right
In my previous post on the stages of relationship, I mentioned that sooner or later, you and your partner are bound to have your first fight. Often, that first fight can make or break your relationship!
If you get communication right from the beginning of your relationship, it will save you so much time and heartache. That way, you can start to build the sort of foundation you need for your relationship to survive and thrive in the long-term.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks.
What Is Ineffective Communication?
It’s easier to understand how to improve communication with your partner if you first understand something about what doesn’t work. Ineffective communication includes things like criticizing each other, being defensive, contemptuous, fighting all the time with no repair, and certainly abuse and neglect.
When couples act in those ways toward each other, it kills the relationship.
Relationships will not survive over time if you and your partner treat each other in any of those ways. It’s too taxing on your immune systems and your nervous systems. It will burn both of you out!
Take this seriously. You can’t just talk to each other any old way you want and expect to have a great relationship. You have to make sure that you’re taking care of the way in which you communicate with one another if you want the relationship to make it.
Ways to Improve Communication in a Relationship
Right off the top, effective communication means that when anything is disrupting the flow between you and your partner, anything at all, it’s important that you bring it up and talk about it.
Spill the Beans
One of the biggest mistakes you may be making when it comes to communication is this: When something’s bothering you in your relationship, instead of bringing it up, you bottle it up.
This never works!
You can only hold onto your distress for so long. At a certain point, it’s all bound to come out. You’ll either end up exploding or acting out all of that resentment and hostility in some other way under the table.
I’m sure you have good reason for wanting to bottle things up. You are likely doubtful that it will go well if you do bring the issue up with your partner. No one could blame you for not wanting to talk about it.
As a couple, you need to feel confident that you actually can talk about absolutely everything of importance, especially the really difficult stuff.
You need to know that neither one of you is going to get killed.
If you are behaving in ways that are threatening to each other, that is going to shut the communication down and make both of you feel like it’s not okay to bring up the important issues.
Create a Safe Space
Agreeing to make your relationship a safe place where there is no threat and where you listen openly to each other is essential. This can be hard if you came from a family where you never saw parents communicate with respect and openness.
Start by agreeing to make your relationship a safe space.
This is paramount to your existence as a couple. You and your partner can agree that you will not do anything that is threatening to each other. You can agree to meet each other with sensitivity and openness, even if you disagree on the issue at hand. These agreements will make both of you feel comfortable bringing up whatever is on your mind.
An open, friendly response is critical to the success of your relationship.
Now, it’s really hard to use effective communication, especially when you come from a family where you didn’t see people communicating effectively. You’ll need to master some new skills that may take time, so it’s important to be generous and understanding with each other as you learn.
State What You Need
Effective communication basically has to do with being able to state what you need in an open, truthful way, but in a way that is respectful of your partner at the same time.
One of the ways to do this is by using a technique called The Soft Start-Up.
The “Soft Start-Up”
The Soft Start-Up is a term coined by marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, who looked into what makes relationships work for the long haul.
One of the things he found is that when one partner needs to bring up difficult material with the other one, it really helps when they start out soft. He calls this the Soft Start-Up, which means saying something that makes your partner feel loved or respected before you give them the difficult piece of information. Saying something positive should create a positive change in your partner’s emotional state, making them much more receptive to your message.
Many of us are familiar with the idea of the Compliment Sandwich in which you provide someone with a positive comment about their behavior, followed by a negative or constructive comment and ending on a positive.
The Soft Start-Up is like that, only what you say at the beginning seems to be the most important.
Using the Soft Start-Up will make your partner much more open to what you have to say because you’ve done something to take care of them first.
And that will make it more likely that they will hear what you need.
Positive, Request, Positive
So, for example, “Honey, I really appreciate how much you’ve been working on keeping the house clean. And there’s just this one little thing that would make such a difference is if you could just remember to put your socks in the hamper in the morning. That would be huge for me. Thank you. I love you.” Something like that.
You noticed I had the positive, followed by the request, and then I ended with a positive.
Now, this is really important because it turns out that the brain actually has a negativity bias.
So, our brains are actually always scanning the environment for anything that sounds threatening to us. And that’s one of the ways that we learned to survive. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, when we were being chased by wild animals, we had to be very, very sensitive to anything on the horizon that might be dangerous to us. And unfortunately, that part of the brain that scans the horizon for threat is the same part of the brain that gets activated in our intimate relationships when we feel like our partner is doing something threatening to us.
That’s why you have to take this issue of how you present negative information to your partner seriously.
You don’t want your partner to get you confused with a pack of wildebeests on the horizon who are stampeding them!
You want your partner to remember that you’re the one who loves them and that you put the relationship above any sort of problem that the two of you have.
Don’t forget: Just because you two are fighting or you’re upset with each other, it doesn’t mean that you stop being friends, or that you stop loving each other.
This is the number one mistake couples make when it comes to fighting: They act like they don’t like or love each other anymore. You can’t act that way and expect that your relationship will last because it won’t.
To be a Power Couple, remember at all times that you are friends and lovers.
Just because you’re upset with each other doesn’t change that.
You still need to act like you care.
Use your Soft Start-Up when you have to say something difficult and remember to take care of each other, even when you’re upset.
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Leave me a comment below about how you’ve used the Soft Start-up and I look forward to your responses.
And please check out The Power Couple Formula for lots more information about how to build a fantastic relationship.
I’ll see you in the next video.