"Communication Skills to Resolve Conflict and Increase Intimacy"

Married couple having an intimate discussion

     In this article I'll talk about how to communicate more effectively in order to deal with conflict and increase intimacy & connection.

     Most couples come in to therapy interested in improving the way that they communicate with each other. It may be that they either don't communicate their needs and avoid conflict OR that they have endless conflict that doesn't get resolved.  In either case, it can feel like they are not heard, understood and cared for.

    Engaged Listener

    Being a good engaged listener is key to improving communication, so let's start there.

    Listen Attentively.  Don't defend or argue. Instead spend your time focused on understanding/caring what the other person is saying.

    Deepen Understanding.  Ask questions for clarification with the intent of understanding the other person better and learning about yourself (how you're triggered etc.). Allow for curiosity.

    Express Empathy.  Imagine what it's like for the other person from their perspective and communicate this compassionately. For example, say, "I hear you felt really hurt by what I said." Use empathic statements and non-verbal language like, "oh"  and "uh-huh" to communicate that you're listening, understand and care what your partner is saying.

Mindful Speaker

    Focus.  Stay focused on one issue at a time to emphasize what's most important and not overwhelm the listener.

    Avoid Attacking.  Make sure you're calm enough to engage in a conversation with vulnerability and without putting the other person down (i.e. blaming, accusing and name calling). This is likely to put the other person on the defensive.  If there is some positive aspect of situation, you may want to point that out.

    Learn About Yourself Mindfully and compassionately notice what triggers you from unmet needs in the past or present and  be open to discovering something about yourself.

   Express Yourself.   Express yourself without holding the other person solely responsible for your reactions.  You should assert your needs with requests and not demands and use "I" statements such as,  "when you said xyz, I felt xyz" not "I think you're a jerk".

Practice Makes Perfect

    Start with a topic that is a 5 or 6 out of 10 in terms of intensity and importance.

    When you lead with vulnerability with someone you trust and care for, it's more likely to resolve in a more satisfying way and more quickly.

    It's often not about problem solving but about feeling heard (at least first).

    Take a moment to reflect on which one of these communication skills you'd like to improve for yourself. How can you become a better partner, friend or co-worker, regardless of how the other person responds.