When Communication is Difficult

Make time for your conversations, be in the same room and turn off that mobile, try to talk about the problem without apportioning blame, is it an issue that can be identified that you both can see a solution for, allow each other to speak, maintain eye contact and try not to jump to conclusions or anticipate what the other person is going to say.

Is the problem making you unreasonably angry? Could it be triggering feelings of injustice from the past, could you be venting the anger you felt as a child? If this is happening; slow down your responses, be more considered and focus on both the actual issue being discussed and the words and expression of your partner.

You might be behaving like your Mum or your Dad, can you hear yourself using the expressions or taking the attitude of your parents? Is the point you are making what you truly believe? Is it current and relevant? Question yourself.

Never try to win an argument by starting another “and there’s another thing”, don’t drag up issues from the past, don’t generalise “you always..”, don’t intimidate by raising your voice, crying or standing too close, don’t take the easy way out “oh, its all my fault”, stay focussed on the problem, negotiate and consider the other persons point of view.

Make sure that your partner is ready for the conversation and able to give enough time and attention to it and make sure they are aware of the subject. Be flexible, accept that it may have to be postponed. Be aware of your desired outcome, can you be flexible with your expectations, are they realistic?

Own your emotions; using “I feel…” rather than “You make me feel….”, if the problem is about behaviour be specific, using;

When you…….

I feel……….(hurt, insignificant, ignored etc)

I want……..

Separating the feeling from the behaviour is useful, it’s powerful and honest.

Be aware of your feelings, anger can be useful to highlight a feeling of injustice but it probably disguises feelings of sadness, fear of being unheard being found out or feelings of insignificance. Try to get in touch with your emotion and say how you really feel.

Separate the person from the behaviour;

“You did something wrong therefore you are stupid”, we all make mistakes, we learn by them, unless you know it was deliberate give the benefit of the doubt, don’t interrogate, accept an apology and consider how you would like to be treated if it was you making the mistake.

A discussion should not be a competition for who feels the most hard done by, even when put into a difficult situation we usually have a few options, saying “I have to” negates your choices, saying ‘have to’ makes you a victim and may not be honest.

An honest discussion needs privacy, it needs to be just about you two even if other people are involved in the problem, using other peoples opinions to put the other person down reduces the impact of your own feelings and loses focus, you want to make yourself heard not someone else, aim to have this conversation in a fairly neutral place (not the bedroom), and be flexible, open minded and if you cannot find resolution in the time available agree on another date/time and do not refer to it in the meantime.

Resolution styles are again something we drag up from the past, so we not only often address problems in the style of one of our parents, whether we can resolve our problems is based on them too! It is useful to think back, was it arguing and shouting or silent and uncommunicative? How was a request from you received, did you feel heard, were your opinions respected?

Refusing to discuss problems can be denial, can be passive aggressive but, insistence on discussion can also be aggressive, allow each other the respect you would like to receive yourself, read your partners body language, behave appropriately, don’t walk off, don’t patronise or use sarcasm, be polite, accept you may be wrong and listen without assumption.