Communication is one of the most important factors in a successful partnership or marriage. It’s usually when communication breaks down that misunderstandings start, which can sometimes lead to serious problems. Below are my “Top 10 Rules for Effective Communication.” Using them can literally save many a fight and even the relationship.
1. Timing is everything. Before you say something to your partner, pause for 10 seconds. Then ask yourself , “Knowing my partner, is this the best time to say this?” This alone can nip a potential argument in the bud.
2. Remind yourself that you are speaking to your partner. Your not speaking to your mother, father, sibling or employee. Your partner should be the one with whom you can communicate honestly and with little or no judgement. Respecting your partner is key here.
3.Never blame. “You did __" or "You did not ___”. This gets you nowhere except to immediately invoke your partners defenses which can lead to an argument. Remember: when you point a finger there are three pointing back at you.
4. Speak from the “I" postion. (e.g. I am feeling frustrated, disappointed, etc.). Keeping the focus on yourself and how your partner makes you “feel” when an issue arises takes the onus off of him/her, thus preventing him or her from getting defensive.
5. Take turns. Only one person can speak at a time. Even though you may want to “speak your mind” about a particular issue, it’s critical to be courteous and have a discussion as opposed to trying to talk over one another.
6. Listen, listen, listen. It’s important to listen as if you really care and want to help your partner out. People have a basic need to be heard and, when it’s your partner, they should be given your full attention.
7. Repeat back what you think you heard. If you’re not sure how to to respond to something your partner said either repeat it back to them or ask for clarification. It may aggravate the situation even more if you respond not understanding what their grievance or statement meant.
8. Don’t globalize. Avoid words and phrases like, “always", "never” and "all the time". Let’s face it, nothing is permanent. It’s especially important not to say these and similar words when you’re angry. Nobody really “always” does anything. Using these words in a heated way usually only makes matters worse.
9. Take a break. If an argument gets too heated, take a 20 minute break and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.
10. Remind yourself that you and your partner are a team. Ultimately you both want a peaceful, healthy relationship. It is up to BOTH of you to behave in a way that will get you what you want. And communicating and working WITH your partner is a much easier and healthier way to maintain the relationship.
Effective communication can be learned and it's important to learn healthy patterns of communication early in a relationship. It's much easier to start off with good, clear communication with your partner rather than have to unlearn unhealthy patterns later after problems have started. Using these "10 Rules" can help with this.