1. Lead with I-statements, drop the “you’s”
When we start a sentence with “You always… or you never…” we are pretty much guaranteeing that our partner is not going to be able to really hear what we are saying. The brain wants to protect its person and any time we have threatening language we are thrust into defensive and protective mode – even when what the person is saying may be true! To avoid your partner throwing up a wall and reacting to the threat of accusation, try phrasing what you have to say from the “I feel” perspective. That takes the heat off the accused and gives you the opportunity to really discuss what’s going on while representing your side. The goal, in the end, is to be heard and starting from the “I” perspective will assist in opening the door to effective communication.
AVOID: “You never listen to me!”
TRY: “I feel like I’m trying to tell you something but it’s not being heard”
2. Make acknowledgments a part of your routine
We can easily take our partners regular contributions to the relationship for granted. Try calling out even the smallest of kind acts you see from your partner. Even when our partners make us crazy there are good things to be found and scanning for the good things can help us avoid going into the negative lens that so often drags relationships down (focusing solely on what needs fixing is a buzz kill for everyone - and exhausting!). Make a habit of calling it out when you see an effort on the part of your partner and express gratitude for their action.
AVOID: Expecting the “little things” and ignoring the effort
TRY: “Thank you for doing the shopping this week – I appreciate that I didn’t have to go!” (even if it was his/her turn)
3. Check in with your person
One of the biggest complaints in relationships is a feeling of not being connected. In a crazy world full of busy and distracted days it can be easy to live in a sub-world of ourselves with our social media, our daily drama, our own feelings and stress. Tuning in to your partner is as simple as being fully present. It means you stop the noise in your own head (i.e. not reviewing notes for tomorrow’s meeting in your head) and ask about their day - how a meeting went, how they did with the kiddos, how they are feeling in the moment overall. Checking in is one of the ways we stay connected and as we keep up with each others status. Being tuned in enables us to move in ways that are complementary to the way our partner is moving. The biggest boost to connectivity? Acknowledging what you are seeing. “I see that you are really fired up about this new project!” or “I can really feel how frustrated you are from today." Neither of these offer “fixes” but they do ensure your partner is seen and heard and that can go a long way toward building and maintaining connection. Checking in will help you tune in and tuning in will keep the fire burning…
AVOID: Talking all about you, your day, your stuff
TRY: Clearing your head from your own lists and really listening and reflecting what’s happening in your partner’s world.
Try these small tips to see shifts in the way you and your partner relate to each other and to build effective communication skills!
PS These tips work in any kind of relationship so try them with friends, family, and work cohorts!