Communication is the key to any successful relationship. That being said, you want to foster an environment in your relationship in which you and your significant other feel comfortable approaching each other with any problems. This, naturally, includes problems you might be having in your relationship. So how to you create an environment in which the two of you are able to really talk to each other, be heard, and come out of the conversation feeling better for having had it? Here are some tips and tricks to help you do just that:
Remove distractions and actually listen.
Turn off the television, put your phones down, and really listen to what the other person is saying. Not only does this let your significant other know that what they have to say is important to you, it also allows you to focus on what is being said so that you don’t miss something important.
Do not attack the other person.
Saying things like “You did ____________” or “This is your fault because ___________” will make the other person feel as though they are under attack. When you feel like you are being attacked, it is naturally to stop listening and to become defensive. This can result in the escalation of an issue instead of an effective conversation. Try using phrases that begin with I, such as “I feel _____________ (frustrated, hurt, betrayed, confused, etc)” instead.
Take note of what your significant other is saying. This is especially important if your significant other is talking to you about a problem. If they are brave enough to come to you with their issues (or issues they feel are present in your relationship), be invested enough to really hear them out. Ask questions when you need clarification and make sure you understand the problem. Most importantly though, let them talk. You want to make sure they get out everything they need to say. You’ll have a chance to reply when they are done.
Try to sees things from their perspective.
Your perspective is not the only perspective. Appreciate that you and your significant other may not agree on everything. This is, in fact, totally normal. It would be stranger if the two of you did agree on everything! With that in mind, you need to try and see things from the perspective of your SO. Put yourself in their shoes: Would you be hurt by them forgetting your anniversary? Can you see how not telling them about running into your ex might have made them feel as though you had something to hide?
Talk, don’t yell.
It is easy to get defensive when your significant other is raising an issue about your relationship, but it is important that you try to remain calm. Keep in mind that they feel comfortable enough with you to talk to you about the issue in the first place. Do not let them down by greeting their openness with abrasiveness. It is important that you establish a tone that makes them comfortable enough to come to you with problems in the future instead of bottling them up (which will only lead to emotional distance and bigger issues). This means do not yell at them as many people tune out when they are being yelled at. If you want to be heard, speak in a normal volume and choose your words carefully.
Don’t take the time to hear them out and then brush the problem under the rug! If they felt it was important enough to bring to you, then you need to treat it with the same level of importance. Repeat the issue back to them in your own words so they know that you heard them. Then go the extra step and talk about what the both of you could do to resolve this issue and how you could prevent something like this from happening in the future. But it’s not enough to stop there!
If you say you are going to do something to alleviate the possibility of this same situation happening again, make sure you follow through with it. Telling your SO that there is something you can do to make things better and then clearly choosing not to do so sends the message that you just don’t care and that they cannot trust you to keep your word. In the future, they will be reluctant to bring any problems to you because you have shown them that it will not solve anything. On the other hand, telling them you’ll do something and then actually following through with it will show them that not only did you hear them when they talked to you but that you actually care about them and their feelings.
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