We've all heard that communication is key to a great relationship, and it is. The problem is, many of us weren't taught what that looks like. Great communication is more than just chatting each other up. It's about how we are saying and receiving what's being said.
For instance, one of the things I hear often in coaching women is, "We talk all the time, but that doesn't seem to help. In fact, talking actually seems to make things worse than they were."
When we don't communicate clearly, it can seem like talking is not the answer, but not talking won't resolve anything, either. Instead, we need to look at the ways we are communicating and see if we can clean up our words to be able to communicate our wants and needs effectively without creating a war zone.
When we communicate clearly, there is no question as to what we mean. It's about taking the jokes, the blame and sideways comments out of the equation to focus on resolving the situation.
Even if you do communicate all the time, you could be using unclear language. This happens when we're scared of saying what we really want to say. When this happens, we try to lighten it up by making jokes, or we get defensive and use pointed language.
We think they're little things, but they can create a divide in a relationship. Here are seven ways we make our communication confusing:
1. Not Saying What You Want To Say
When we think we are being kind and not saying what is really bothering us, we actually end up being like a bomb that's ready to go off. We start picking on everything someone does instead of the one thing we really need to talk about. It starts to build up, and then one day, we explode.
When we keep it all locked up, we risk exploding at the most inopportune times and really making a mess of communication. Diffuse the bomb by getting to the bottom of what is really bothering you, and find a safe way to talk about it.
2. Passive-Aggressive Commentary
I was raised in a house where no one talked about the elephant in the room. Instead, we made passive-aggressive comments to each other. Although the attempt is often to make light of a situation, it isn't direct, so the receiver doesn't really know what to do with the comment.
Is it funny, or does she really think something negative about me? Is there something I should do? It's not clear what you mean, so just honestly say what you are trying to say.
3. No Filter
We need to discuss things, but we also need to be aware of why and how we are saying what we are saying. Consider the impact in addition to your intention. For example, telling your man that his jeans are getting too tight every time he gets dressed is probably not the most effective form of communication.
Are you worried about his health? Talk to him about it in a sensitive and direct manner.
Before we speak, it helps to think about the impact your words can make. Your intention may be to keep him healthy, but your impact of mentioning it all time could make him that you have a problem with him.
4. The Blame Game
When we are pointing out whose fault something is, we are halting progress in our relationship. We aren't resolving the situation; we're focused on the past. Sure, there may be really good information in past lessons, but when it comes to working out a problem, moving forward is the only way through.
In a relationship, we need to each accept our responsibility for the situation and find ways to prevent the situation in the future if possible. Sometimes, it's accepting that the other's intention was not to hurt me, even if that was the impact. Blaming only keeps us powerless and unable to change the situation.
5. Not Hearing The Other Person
So many times we listen to react instead of listening to hear. This is especially true in heated situations.
When we listen to react, we aren't listening to understand. Even worse, if we don't feel heard, we get louder and often say things we don't mean because we're frustrated.
Next time you're having a serious conversation, try repeating or paraphrasing what the other person said before you react. It will give you time to really process what he or she is going through, and your partner will feel like you really heard what he or she had to say.
You don't have to agree. Your partner just needs to be heard.
6. Unclear Expectations
After a few relationships, you'll probably find that expectations are the downfall to any beautiful romance. The problem is we come from two different perspectives and life experiences. What we think we mean and what someone else hears can be two completely different things.
It can be painful — especially for us introverts — to be clear with every detail of what me mean. It will, however, save you a ton of headaches and heartbreaks later.
Be clear with what you want, and then drop your expectations. You'll thank me later.
7. All About Me
Relationships are personal, so it's difficult to be in one without thinking everything all about you. In relationships it's a given that we are going to hurt each other. It's not our intent most of the time, but in any relationship, we're going to be let down, be told something unintentionally hurtful or crushed by another's act out of selfishness.
In those moments, we need to remember we aren't perfect. Someone else's actions or words aren't really about us, even if we felt the impact. It's his or her mistake, not a personal attack on you. Let that person tell you about his or her experience so you can understand that person's point of view.
Relationships can be challenging, but they are worth the effort in the end. Communication isn't just about the amount of words exchanged; it's about the quality of the conversation.
The more honest and vulnerable we can be, the more our conversation will be clear and we'll feel heard. Isn't that what you really want?
It's not always easy to notice when we are going out of bounds, so consider setting up some safety around your disagreements by setting up some rules ahead of time. Call each other out when you hear one of these behaviors come out, and remember your intentions.