I know this may come as a shock but… men and women don’t think alike.
Communication between the sexes, therefore, does not come naturally, since men and women frequently have different styles of communicating. To stay connected, to stay in love, and to create an ongoing desire to stay in a harmonious and intimate relationship, couples need to exercise patience and persistence. They have to create circumstances – the environment and the language – that will facilitate open communication. In short, couples have to work hard at communicating effectively.
Below are 8 suggestions to help you and your partner learn how to better listen to each other, acknowledge what is said, and openly discuss the issues in your relationship.
Suggestion #1: Arrange for time to talk
Choose a time for discussion when you both can focus on the issues. Don’t try to talk to your partner about serious issues when he’s trying to go to sleep or is absorbed in a football game! Agree to certain ground rules: Respect each other’s opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. Listen with an open heart and do not be defensive. Keep your goal in mind: to speak honestly, to listen open-mindedly, and to be heard. Make sure that both you and your partner have sufficient time to express your feelings without distractions or time restraints.
Suggestion #2: Keep growing your communication skills
Read books and articles about communication. Enlist a good coach or counselor. Listen to your partner in the same way that you would like him to listen to you. One great tool to use is a communication stick. Choose an object that you can pass back and forth. The person who holds the object is the one who is allowed to speak.
Suggestion #3: Be an active listener
While the physical act of hearing – sound waves passing into the auditory canal – may be occurring, the more refined process of listening is a matter of the heart. Active listening means that one person speaks at a time, without interruption, criticism, or judgment. The the listener acknowledges what the speaker has verbalized, paraphrasing what has been stated. This allows both parties to check that the meaning was communicated and to confirm understanding.
Suggestion #4: Focus on only one point at a time
As we know, women are much more adept at multitasking then are men. It is imperative, therefore, to stick to the topic at hand and stay focused on one point at a time to keep your partner with you during your talk. Reciting a laundry list of concerns will soon cause your partner to tune you out. Make it clear from the beginning what your goal is.
Suggestion #5: Keep your point short and simple
Too much detail and too many extra words will cause him to lose track of the point. Do not keep repeating the same point. And do not dredge up past issues that have nothing to do with the current subject matter. This will also cause him to stop listening and processing. Make your point once, then stop talking and let him respond.
Suggestion #6: Avoid accusations and use “I” statements
Blaming your partner only causes more separation and defensiveness. Communicate using “I” messages rather than “you” messages. For example, rather than saying “You never pay attention to me,” you could say, “I feel upset because I need/want more attention from you.” This allows your partner to better understand how you feel and not become immediately defensive about an accusation.
Suggestion #7: Offer positive encouragement.
When your partner feels valued for sharing his feelings and allowing you to express yours, he will be more willing to continue openly communicating. Both of you can make positive statements about how much better it feels to be open and honest. If he brings up a different subject, rather than bristling, say, “I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to talk to me about this. Let’s see if we can make it work for the two of us.”
Suggestion # 8: Be aware of nonverbal cues.
Your body language and tone of voice can have a significant impact on whether or not your partner will listen to you. If you sit with your arms crossed while you’re saying how sorry you are about hurting him, he will “listen” to your constricted, tight body language rather than to your actual apology. This also works in reverse. Women are very gifted at picking up subtle nonverbal cues, which can lead to far more damage than the actual words used.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Please try them and let me know they are helping you by leaving me a comment!