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It's All in the Approach

Learning these new skills of communication, compromise and openness can make all the difference in the relationship. It can make your conversations and issues far easier to deal with, and make concessions easier to take, as you will better understand the reasoning behind your partner's feelings.
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I feel like I am making a baseball analogy when I make the statement that it is all in the approach with couples, but it is. So many times people tell me that things end up in a screaming match every time they try to talk to each other about something, or that their partner yells at them when you ask for something, or try to talk about an important issue. Admittedly, almost 100 percent of the people do present themselves as angels who casually and calmly present something to the other person, and that the other person flies off the handle for no reason. When they finally ask their partner about how they approach them, they are typically surprised by the answer.

Then we specifically talk about how they are approaching the other person. We usually get to the root that things are not as sweet and simple as they were originally presented. That they "know" what the other person is going to say, so they were a bit hostile and worked up when they approached them with their issue or question. So, my first suggestion is to directly ask the person how they perceive them when they approach them. Do they perceive them, as they do themselves, or do they experience them in a different way than they think? Most of the time, the two versions of how things go are very different.

The next step is to have them ask their partner how they "could" ask things, or approach topics that would be better received. They are often leery to do this at first, thinking they will not get input, then are pleasantly surprised that their partner will tell them exactly what could change to make them more responsive and open. They can let them know what does and does not work, what makes them defensive, and what would make them open to address issues between them that need addressing. The important point here is to be introspective and honest. If you tell your partner this is the way that will work, do not yell at them if they make the effort to try and change their approach.

Now if we are being realistic, neither party is going to do this perfectly all the time at first. It takes practice, just like anything else. There will be mistakes, and there will be times where the couple ends up in a short argument. I always explain the idea that progress works in reverse. First, we repeat our old habit, but realize it right after we do it. Then you catch yourself halfway through it and stop. Next you catch yourself right before you do the behavior that upsets your partner. Finally, you practice your new skills and talk to each other and have a conversation that actually resolves the problem, and comes to a compromise. This practice and change in thinking makes a tremendous difference in the relationship. The couple fights less, and accomplishes more. They are able to talk things out civilly and stop using yelling as their automatic reaction.

Learning these new skills of communication, compromise and openness can make all the difference in the relationship. It can make your conversations and issues far easier to deal with, and make concessions easier to take, as you will better understand the reasoning behind your partner's thoughts and feelings on a matter. Just like in baseball, using these skills correctly will take practice to be successful, and just like in baseball it really is all in the approach.

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