Before that loving Valentine's Day momentum fades away, think of this season as a great time to focus on effective communication with your partner. So regardless of what else is going on between the two of you, by keeping these essentials of good communication in mind, you can only make things better:
- Give Feedback -- When you give feedback, be as specific as possible. The most effective feedback is given in a constructive manner, instead of in such a way as to cause your partner to react defensively. It's based on observations--not judgment. The fact is that your partner may be unaware of behavior that you find annoying or hard to live with. By helping your partner to recognize your feelings about that behavior, rather than merely attacking it, you will go much further toward resolving the source of upset or conflict. For example, the difference between saying, "I don't like you when you're angry" and, "I don't like the way I feel [or it feels] when you are hostile toward me" is huge. The first is an attack on your partner; the second is an expression of your own feelings.
- Communicate Assertively -- That is where your feelings are expressed in words, but without threatening, putting down, or overpowering your partner. It's particularly important not only to share, but to take responsibility for your feelings. When communicating assertively, make "I" statements. Instead of saying, "You never listen to me," try saying, "I wish that you were more responsive when I talk to you about things that are important to me." By making "I" statements, you do much to reduce the chance that your partner will feel attacked and react defensively, with the result being merely an argument that in the end resolves nothing.
- Fact or Feeling -- While feelings are not absolute facts; they do factually describe what's going on inside you or your partner. Our feelings are our own realities. By acknowledging and reacting sensitively to your partner's feelings, you have the power to make a dramatic shift in the emotional climate that exists between the two of you. Acknowledging your partner's feelings is not to be confused with giving in. Think of it as simply a way of understanding a reality that exists between you, which needs to be dealt with for the long-term health of your relationship.
Better communication with your partner -- especially when it comes to your most difficult issues--can only promote a healthier, happier climate!