We live in an age of technology, when communicating with someone on the other side of the world is as easy as picking up your smartphone.
But if it’s so easy, why aren’t many of us communicating as effectively in our relationships?
Do you often feel like your partner doesn’t listen to you?
Even if you spend a lot of time talking, do you really hear each other?
We all make mistakes when we try to communicate.
Often, we simply don’t listen to each other.
The result is a lot of talking but very little actual communication.
So, what does this mean for your relationships?
Let’s find out.
How do you deal with conflict in your relationships?
Nobody really likes conflict, but how much do you dislike it?
Would you rather sweep issues under the rug to prevent any drama from unfolding?
You may be conflict-avoidant.
A conflict-avoidant person feels uncomfortable around anger or tension. They avoid fractious situations at all costs, which results in a whole lot of pent-up emotions.
If this sounds familiar, you may be wondering how you can get your partner to listen to you without creating conflict.
Being conflict-avoidant can make you feel like you lack proper communication skills.
Couples don’t start out not listening to each other. At the start of most new relationships, communication between the two partners is open, honest, and effective.
You listen to everything your partner says as you learn about them.
You find out their favorite color, their favorite food, their favorite contestant on the latest cycle of America’s Next Top Model ― the list is endless.
So, when does the communication begin to break down?
People whose partners reject their bids for attention may eventually stop communicating.
Communication breakdowns often happen when one partner pushes the other away.
“Why am I the one making all the effort here?”
When partners start keeping score like this, they begin to take a back seat in the relationship.
Hearing Your Partner
From our work at the Gay Couples Institute, we’ve discovered that many couples find it challenging to stay in the present when their partner is talking to them.
Technology is designed to make communication more effective, but it can actually be more of a hindrance than a help.
Work emails, friends bugging you on social media, your calendar app reminding you your parents are visiting at the weekend ― there’s no escape.
Research shows that people listen when they feel they’re also being heard.
Humans are inherently self-centered. We all want to talk about ourselves.
Think about it ― during an argument, who decides who gets to talk first?
More often than not, couples listen to reply. They don’t really hear what’s being said.
Listening to understand encourages your partner to open up and listen to you in return.
Mindset Shift ― Focus and Connect
There’s always something going on these days.
We’re constantly rushing off somewhere and making plans for tomorrow.
But what about today? What about right now?
Our busy schedules distract us from what’s going on in front of us.
“What if I miss an important call?”
If you find it hard to stop and listen, remember that you can only do one thing at a time.
“All I’m doing right now is talking to you.”
How to Stay in the Present ― 3 Scientifically Proven Steps
- Put your phone away. Technology gets in the way ― a lot. How often do you go out to dinner and see another couple, both glued to their phones the whole time? Put your smartphone away and pay attention to your partner.
- Take deep breaths. Breathing helps you to stay calm and present.
- Study your environment. Notice your surroundings and the people in it. Is the restaurant busy? Look at your partner. What are they wearing? Taking a moment to absorb what’s going on around you helps keep your mind from drifting off.
These three steps will help you stay focused on your partner. This kind of mindset shift enables you to connect with your partner and see life from their perspective.
But what if the conversation gets heated?
The Heat of the Moment
We all have our hot topics, whether it’s finances, sex, or the monster-in-law.
So, how do you stay calm enough to have a rational discussion?
When you’re frustrated or upset, you automatically begin to take deep breaths that go down to the pit of your stomach. Deep breathing keeps you calm, so don’t try to fight it ― let it happen.
Think about how you are approaching the issue.
Are you engaging in the conversation from your perspective and owning it?
Or are you approaching it from your partner’s perspective and blaming them?
Taking ownership helps you and your partner stay calm during a heated discussion.
If all else fails, take a 20-minute time-out.
Taking a short break allows both of you to calm down and approach the conversation from an alternative point of view.
Do you feel like your partner doesn’t listen to you? Figuring out their communication style might help you get through to them. Take our Communication Style Quiz to find out how you can communicate more effectively with your partner.
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org