We all know that a relationship is bound for failure without communication to express how one feels, expectations, frustrations, languages of love, up and downs, highs and lows.  Still, when it comes to having those tough convos, it can be burdensome for both parties.  Last week’s post, I simply expressed frustration with men running away from hashing out an issue through communication for reasons such as the fear of rejection, failure, general fear of conflict and/or the fear that things will end. 

I’ll admit, I am one who doesn’t like having tough conversations.  Still, they must be had.  Then I’m confronted with the barrier of “How do I approach the issue?” 

To remedy this, here are some tips for having that conversation successfully:

(yes, a conversation, not an argument/ lecture guys)

Body Language

This is first on my list because it’s something that I myself dealt with most recently.  If your significant other is expressing how they feel about a situation it’s not a good idea to cross your arms, close your eyes, or roll over so that your back is facing them.  You never want you, partner, to feel as though you’re being dismissive.  A part of hearing someone out is being totally present.  That needs to be read in what you are saying through you’re gestures.  Start with making eye contact.  This let’s them know that they have your undivided attention.  Giving them that, says that “I am here and I care about what you are saying.”  It provides a safe space in a moment of vulnerability.  In turn, this gives them permission to freely express themselves. 

Conversely, if you are like me, you address the body language and now the topic has moved away from the issue at hand and on to how you are being/ or not being received. The conversation has now evolved into correcting the body language and the feelings felt do to the dismissive body language.  This is leaving the real issue looming (maybe that was a diversion/ the plan all along). 

Which leads me to my next tip…

No Diverting

When I decided that I was going to write this series on communication and the lack thereof, I was lucky enough to have certain pieces of advice fall out of the sky. One of them being this month’s  Come As You Are ( aka CAYA) sermon by my pastor called “Can You Hear Me Now?  In it, he speaks on diverting from the real issue at hand.  It usually happens like this:

(True Story)

Person one: You know it really upsets me when at dinner last night, when you gave my drink and my dessert to your (grown) son as if I wasn’t sitting there and as if it wasn’t mine.  You know I don’t like drininking off of people.  It really made me feel as though I don’t matter when it’s the three of us.

Person two: Well I didn’t like the way you woke me up this morning.

Don’t wait until one person brings up an issue for you to now bring up everything that bothers you about them.  As my pastor pointed out, not only does it take away from the issue at hand, but now you are arguing over who is most offended (thanks pastor Wesley). 

Stay Calm

I’ll admit, in my experience, men are better than women at this.  Meaning, I’m the one raising my voice most of the time.  Something I need to work on… I know.  My pastor also gave us advice that he’d received from his elder when giving the secret to 50 years of marriage: “You both can’t act a fool at the same time.” 

I think that statement sums up this tip, but I’ll elaborate. When you are both yelling no one is being heard.  I’m sure we all know that.  But for some odd reason, we do it anyway.  Once the tone is elevated, people start feeling attacked and become defensive.   Don’t take things personally.  That’s all.  See this as a way to improve.  It’s constructive.  Not destructive. At least it shouldn’t be.  Not if your goal is maintaining a relationship.

Take Responsibility

If you have done something to hurt your partner, apologize.  Simple.  No pointing fingers.  If you need a refresher on this re-visit No Diverting!

Validate by Listening

One of the first things they teach in counseling is that naturally, we listen to respond. This is WRONG.  Our first step in role-playing was to break this habit by paraphrase how the person in our chair is feeling or what they are telling us.  We very rarely respond with suggestions.  We listen and allow them to hash out things for themselves.   By repeating everything back to someone, they immediately feel as though they are being heard.  This makes it easier to move on to come up with a solution.


Work Together To Find A Solution

Is there a common goal?  Yes?  If so, how can it be obtained without backtracking?  This may involve a little compromise.  The relationship won’t last without compromise either.  So, if one party has an issue with always being the one to travel to see the other, they will start to feel as though they are putting in all the work to keep the relationship going.  The compromise can be, I came to you this weekend, and you come to me next week.  I planned our anniversary; you plan next year’s anniversary, so on and so on. 

If the two of you care enough and want to make it work, you will.  It’s that simple. It will not happen without communication, but the willingness to communicate starts with the desire to be there.  Once you have those use the six tips above to get you through rest.