with live speaking is a lost art. If verbal articulation is involved, people bail out, they would rather send a text. God forbid we dial a number! Youth these days begin getting to know someone through text messaging first. I asked my teenage daughter the other day if the cute guy at the gym asked for her friends number. She said yes, he did. I asked her, “Well, did he call yet?” She responded, “Mom, no one calls you! He’s not gonna call.” In shock, I said, “What do you mean he won’t call?” She went on to explain he would text her, and they would start talking. So, innocently, I said, “Oh, so after he texts her, he will call and they start talking.” She says, “NO, Mom. They start texting, you know, talking through texting.” What a shame, I thought.
The young people today are losing ground on quality communication, and fast because of the vast text messaging that is the preferred method of transferring information. It’s really sad that they are not able to perceive tones, moods, fluctuations of voice, or even detect silence, through texting on a device. What’s even more alarming is that the people skills and social skills that many adults have learned through the youthful experiences of real interaction and real conversations on the phone, will be a weakness for this younger generation of avid text messengers.
As a relationship specialist, I am floored with the number of couples who try to work out problems and actually communicate through text messaging. Couples need to realize that one priority of a solid, love relationship is to be transparent. Couples who share their feelings openly help to create or maintain intimacy through talking in person. When they can look at one another eye to eye, and feel free to express their feelings in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way, they are able to feel a closer connection and bond. When they are able to get better and better at having discussions, versus regular arguments, they can learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses regarding differences and expectations.
Communication involves three phases. First, it involves a talker, and a listener. Second, it involves one person needing to feel understood, and one person being understanding. Third, it involves a talker with a motive, and a listener with feedback. In each of these phases, there are two distinct roles. One role is the giver, one is the receiver. Arguments happen when both people try to take over the same role. Discussions stay discussions (not developing into arguments) when one person seeks to help the other more frustrated person, feel understood, INSTEAD of trying harder to be understood him or herself!
Here’s the best tips for communicating effectively, and having regular discussions that never turn to arguments. The basic five rules critical to follow for productive talks.
- Never interrupt.
- Never bring up the past; stay on the subject at hand.
- Never name call, or criticize your partner.
- Never threaten to leave the room, the house, or the relationship.
- Never go to bed mad; agree to disagree, or reschedule your talk, but be kind before sleeping.
Here are some other guidelines to keep in mind, so that when you need to talk, both of you have a productive conversation where you both feel that your feelings matter, that you’re being heard, and feel understood.
If one person is frustrated, or even angry, even if it’s not ‘at’ you, it is VITAL, that you become a strong listener, and do not let the elevated emotions of your partner, elevate your own. Keep calm, and offer support, empathy, understanding, and concern. This is not the time to offer opposing viewpoints, alternate suggestions. If tension is high on the subject, become a listener, with little advice, more phrases like, “I hear you” “I understand” “I know what you’re saying”, “I feel your (pain) or (hardship)”
If one person ‘becomes’ highly emotional during a talk or discussion, they should recognize that elevated emotions will decrease chances of coming to a resolution; and increase chances that a full argument could arise. Signs of escalated emotions are: yelling, rapid heart rate, heavy breathing, physical outbursts of hitting, stomping, kicking, etc..
If any of the following things happen when you get frustrated, it is highly advised that you seek anger management, counseling, or help with what may be triggering your outbursts of stress that turn into unhealthy behaviors. Here’s a list of unhealthy characteristics indicative of needing help in communicating:
- VERBAL THREATS of any kind.
- HYPOTHETICALS (defined as false accusations or assumptions that are not real) example: “So, if your Mother plans another party, most likely she will be rude again, and then what will you do?” (key words indicative of a hypothetical situation: If, Most likely)
- CRITICIZING, Blaming, accusing, badgering, harassing, name-calling, or bullying
- Physically abusing material items, destroying property
- Physically harming a partner, child, or pet.
- Hinting or proclaiming statements implying your intent to harm yourself, or take your life.
- Hinting or proclaiming possible intent to break up, divorce, or leave
The following behaviors are absolutely not appropriate when you’re wanting a productive conversation.
- Replying with defensive statements.
- Creating avoidance tactics (changing the subject, not answering the question, blaming, twisting a response around to point toward you, making critical statements, using any response that doesn’t pertain to the subject (the root of the issue)
- Having a heated discussion in front of others, around the children, or at work.
- If one or both partners are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- If one person is unwilling to talk, but the other keeps nagging.
- If one person is getting aggravated and their emotions are escalating, and they don’t take a break.
- If one person is angry, and the other person decides to be angry because the other one is.
- When one person is ‘assuming’ things.
- When one person is ‘taking things personally.’
- When one person is not willing to ‘own their wrong’ or ‘take responsibility’ for their actions.
~Sometimes, it’s not a matter of one partner being right, and the other wrong; but each having a ‘different’ perspective. Mature couples can recognize this scenario, and accept the difference, rather than try to convert their partner to their view.~
Most people get agitated when they have an unmet expectation. It is important to clearly, and lovingly, express what you need, and get in agreement with both your needs and how each of you plan to fill the other’s. There is nothing more frustrating in a relationship than expressing your need, but continue to have it go unmet. If this is happening, it is necessary to find out ‘why’ your partner is not willing to fill this need. It is usually one of three things:
- They are incapable of filling this need for some reason
- They are unwilling to meet the need for some reason
- They are unclear of your need or expectation
It is also VITAL to use the FEEL, FELT, FOUND principal when communicating things to your partner. You can begin statements with, “I feel _____________, when _____________” or “I have felt ______________, and _____________’ and then, “I have found that when _____________”
When beginning with these statements, the issue is about YOU, and not about what your partner is doing wrong; it is perceived more as a need of yours that you need filling, versus a wrong behavior their doing.
It is important to learn the art of setting boundaries. Boundaries are a way to inform others of your needs, in a loving way. This is in no way, a permission slip to command your desires, or be demanding of what you want. Here’s a great example of a person who is setting a healthy boundary in a loving way:
“Susan, I really feel loved when you take the time to move my laundry over when I forget to. It means a lot to me that you work with me as a team” This works a lot better than saying “Why didn’t you move my laundry over? I forgot to do it last night, what did you do all day?”
Here’s another example: “It is really important to me that the boys eat healthy before practice, but we both get home so late, should I put something in the crock pot today, or can you get home to make something, or should one of us pick up something on my way home?”
What’s great about the latter example, it incorporates questions. The great thing about asking more questions than making more statements in communicating with our partners, is that it sends the following VERY important messages.
- Questions imply you care about your partners input, their idea’s, and their viewpoint.
- Questions create a team-mindset, versus a single-mindset that is perceived as selfish or uncaring.
- Questions make another person feel heard, understood, and creates respect toward the one asking.
During communication, we should be mindful of the Biblical truths as a guideline. Galatians 5:22, 23, and Corinthians 13.
Love is.…Kindness, thoughtfulness, patience, not keeping a record of wrongs, not self-seeking, not jealous, joy, hope, forbearance, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, not boastful, not easily angered, not rude. Love never fails.
If you need more communication tips, I can Skype, phone coach, or do an in person session with individuals or couples. Life Coaching is a great way to reconnect in your relationship, or prepare for marriage.
LifeCoach Annalisa O’Toole