As Teri mentioned yesterday, disagreements can be healthy, as long as it's done in a respectful way. Healthy conflict can be one of the ways you and another person grow closer. It's natural for people to disappoint us in our lives, but how we handle it is key. Continue to follow tips for healthier communication steps this week, and you'll find yourself more successful at tackling difficult conversations.
Avoid absolute thinking. Words such as "Always, never, every time, all the time, etc." are off limits. Using one of these phrases will result in your partner trying to remember any evidence they can think of to combat your statement. This distracts them from listening to the rest of your concern and message being conveyed.
Speak your needs. Tell your partner what you need from them in the moment. If you need help problem solving, just venting, needing support or empathy, it is important for your partner to be informed of your expectations. They can't read your mind!
Avoid "one-upping." This occurs when one person introduces a gripe, and the other responds with "Yeah, but you did ____ last week and I didn't say anything." Doing this minimizes your partners concern and distracts from the issue at hand. If your partner has a concern to bring up, handle it. If it reminds you of a concern you let slip by previously....discuss it once this has been resolved.
Take a time-out. Sometimes we just need a break from the heat of a discussion. Give yourselves permission to call a time out. The key to this is setting a time limit and making a commitment to come back to it. It is important to respect a time out once it is called. Following your partner into the bedroom insisting on continuing the conversation is not respecting the time out. Time outs are not avoiding or running away from the issue if you make a commitment to come back to it at a specific time (i.e. after dinner, when I get back from the store, etc.).
Avoid manipulative cheap shots. For example, "You don't love me", "You must not care about me", "You are just like your mother", etc. These types of statements are meant to distract and destroy. If either you or your partner have reached the point in your conversation where cheap shots have surfaced, a time out is needed.
Individuals who are able to stick to these tips of communication will see their communication style improve. Identifying 1 or 2 of these guidelines to work on wholeheartedly is a great start . Remember, the goal is progress, not perfection. Stay tuned for the next 10 guidelines!
Written by: Tamara McCord MA, LMHC, LCAC
*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.