In the heat of an argument or confrontation do you stand up for yourself and make your voice heard or do you feel like you are on the defensive, the victim, and fail to assert yourself, fully communicating the message you want to convey?
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to share your thoughts and feelings with your significant other only to experience resistance or deflection. Showing vulnerability and expressing your personal needs and desires is a beautiful thing, but at the same time it can be very terrifying. Conveying your innermost thoughts can foster trust if the receiver hears your words, placing value on what they mean, but it can also go entirely wrong when your partner dismisses your concerns, spurring on feelings of abandonment and shame. When this happens an emotional wall is built and what once felt like a safe place to speak freely becomes uncomfortable and may make you feel you are not worthy and are not equal in the relationship.
It is not so uncommon that both men and women shy away from confrontation for this reason. Being rejected by your partner hurts. If this practice continues, partners will often shut down and stop communicating entirely. What can be done to foster better communication so that the relationship does not suffer?
Awareness. Realizing what happens in the communication process is the first step to understanding why you are not being heard and respected.
- Does your partner contort the topic around so that you become the center of the problem?
- Do you get told you are overreacting, acting childish or ridiculous and need to take lessons on how to communicate?
- Does your partner reciprocate by saying he/she feels the same way? For example, you feel your opinion is not validated and your partner says that their opinion is not taken into consideration, leaving you both on the defensive and unable to hear the other person fully and completely without putting your own interests first.
- Does it feel like you have been heard or at least partially understood, yet the same issue comes up again and again, never being settled?
- Does your partner leave the room, leaving you feeling neglected both physically and emotionally with your heart openly exposed?
It is easy to become the victim, to go on the defensive, panic, freeze, feel alone and frankly “put in place.” This behavior dismisses your value as a person and an equal member in the relationship or conversation. When feelings are involved it is difficult to be the bigger person, to identify with the situation, the injustice and to create change both in yourself and in the dynamic of the relationship. But if you seek a stronger relationship, it is important to look within yourself to initiate the change you seek.
Take small steps to implement these strategies to better your communication skills and as a result you will convey more confidence, be more understanding and feel understood, harvesting a sense of belonging and trust.
- Set aside time. Make sure it is an appropriate time when there are no distractions and you are focused.
- Prepare yourself. Have an agenda, thoroughly know what you want to say and prepare mentally how you intend to maneuver the conversation. If this involves taking notes, jotting down issues or concerns, do so in preparation to make pinnacle points of change.
- Keep cool. Sometimes it is not what you say but how you say it. Stay composed. While passion will rear its nose, try to maintain a steadiness that will not aggravate a similar response, spiraling the conversation into an aggressive state, where neither person is heard. It is not about taking issues personally, but being constructive and finding solutions.
- Mirror your partner. Just like staying cool-headed, mirror your partner by restating what he/she has said. Confirm you have heard and understood the points they have made. At the same time, when you speak, ask if your partner has any questions, making sure there are no misunderstandings.
With all change, have patience. Try not to judge yourself or your partner, but work constructively to bolster your communication and your relationship will get better.
Heath, Katherine. June 2014. Women, Find Your Voice. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/06/women-find-your-voice
Foster, Nancy. Good Communication Starts with Listening. Mediate.com.Retrieved from http://www.mediate.com/articles/foster2.cfm