But Are You Really Listening?
I would say most of the couple’s that come in have issues with communication. They complain that their conversations go in circles, lead to them arguing, result in not resolving issues, them not feeling heard, their partner doesn’t listen or understand them, someone shutting down and the list goes on. Sound familiar?
How many times are you supposed to be listening to your spouse talk about an issue or share their feelings about something, but in your head, you’re thinking about what your response is going to be or how you can defend yourself? You might even get so anxious to get out what you want to say that you even interrupt your partner? This happens often, and when this happens, your partner definitely hasn’t been heard and it’s not likely that you both resolved the issue. It gets frustrating right? Not knowing how to fix the issue, tired of being blamed and having to defend yourself. That cycle of bad communication can ruin a relationship.
Being a therapist, it’s my job to listen to others, but in my personal life I also had the challenge of becoming a good listener, and it wasn’t easy! It takes a lot of practice! I was an interrupter. I would interrupt my spouse and not let him finish his thoughts, which was very frustrating for him. I’m still not perfect at it, but it’s something that I make a conscious effort to work at and communicate differently so that our conversations are more productive.
As I have said before, I am big on empathy. I believe that good communication can start with simply being empathetic towards your partner. Not making it about yourself, being empathic enough to listen and using empathy when listening. The reason I believe this is because when you are able to empathize with someone, and truly try to understand their feelings and emotions behind an issue, you have a better understanding of it; and because you empathized it should then be that much easier to come to a resolution. For example, if you are listening to your partner tell you that they felt hurt and alone when you ignored a text of them sharing news with you, and you hear those words hurt and alone. Try to empathize and connect with those feelings they have, and the next words out of your mouth might be “I’m so sorry, I never meant to make you feel hurt or alone”, instead of blaming or becoming defensive. This response helps put your partner at ease, and you can then both discuss ways to prevent the issue from happening again. That’s just a small example, but just that seemingly small difference in your response can make that much difference in how the rest of the conversation goes.
Overall, I love working with couples on these types of communication issues and teaching them other important techniques that can help improve their communication, like reflective listening, turning towards vs. turning away and how to bring up and resolve complaints.
Think about what your communication is like with your partner. Could it improve? Are you resolving issues? Do you feel heard? If you feel like you and your partner could improve on your communication and conflict resolution, please contact me for help!