Feature by Simran Bharadwaj
Image via Freepik
Communication is the basis to healthy relationships. We may often think we are being clear with our partners or friends, yet will get into arguments repeatedly, sometimes about the same things. Healthy and clear communication can help share thoughts and views with a partner, resolve misunderstandings and settle arguments. There are methods that you can use outside of the therapy room to continue practicing healthy communication habits starting with the active constructive responding model.
Active Constructive Responding Model
Appreciative feedback needs to be supportive and focused on strengths. Active constructive feedback is nurturing. Destructive and passive feedback can be cold, hurtful and ignorant.
Nurturing (active): “That's amazing! I’m so happy for you, I know how hard you worked!”
Cold (passive): “Good for you.”
Ignorant (passive): “Can you tell me later? I don’t have time right now, I’m busy”
Hurtful (active): “Congratulations but you probably got lucky”
In improving communication, you want to respond to your partner in a way that shows you care about what they have to say and show genuine enthusiasm and interest. Asking questions about your partner and getting to know more shows interest in their lives, thus allowing them to feel positive emotions.
Use “I” Statements
Using the word “you” when arguing can often make the other person feel attacked. Using “I” statements takes the pressure off your partner and instead allows you to better communicate how you are feeling. “I” statements can reduce hostility and defensiveness. For instance instead of saying “You always leave a mess in the kitchen” you can say “I don’t like it when you don’t clean up after yourself.”
You never listen! VS. I feel unheard, can we talk?
You don't spend any time with me. VS. I miss spending time with you.
Giving your partner your full attention by putting away your phone or turning off the television can show them that you care what they have to say and that you want to listen. Maintaining eye contact and sitting face to face while nodding your head or summarizing what your partner say can show that you understand them. Try not to interrupt your partner, especially in an effort to defend yourself, as this can easily escalate to an argument. Let your partner finish their thoughts, and use “I” statements after to communicate your feelings.
The 24-hour rule
Practicing the 24-hour rule can help avoid unnecessary confrontation and arguments. If you are frustrated with your partner, pause for a moment and think about whether this incident will matter to you in 24-hours. For instance: your partner didn’t put their clothes in the laundry basket, is it the end of the world? Will this matter to you in 24-hours? In these instances you can also use “I” statements to convey that you want them to clean up after themselves rather than immediately getting annoyed and using passive aggressive language towards your partner.
Avoid Black and White Thinking
Couples often use blanket statements such as “You never listen” or “You always argue with me” which can not only provoke anger due to “you” statements but also over generalizes, indicating that you don’t see the times when your partner does listen or takes a step back and doesn’t argue.
Communication in relationships requires practice. The skills mentioned above will not be ingrained in your mind overnight and allow you to always have perfect communication. You may slip up and get into an argument with your partner, but that does not mean you cannot recover. Using these techniques will help you have better communication with your partner overall, can can reduce the occurrence of arguments. As you are learning these skills, you may also find yourself arguing less over time.