We live in reality.
It’s all too common that only one member of a couple is motivated to engage in communication exercises, self-help for relationships, or other forms of personal improvement.
That’s why in the following communication exercises for couples I’ve included ideas about how one member of the couple can practice the exercise without needing the other to be motivated.
When one person in a couple changes communication style, it affects the entire relationship. It can be hard to maintain a healthier, more positive style of communication when your partner isn’t participating or even resists change. Still, it’s worth trying. You’ll learn something new and know you’re making every effort you can – and that’s important, is it not?
A quick disclaimer: If you’re in a relationship with a true narcissist, communication exercises for couples may not yield the results you hope for, unfortunately.
Three Communication Exercises for Couples
1. Practice listening without interrupting
If you’re rolling your eyes, this one probably applies directly to your relationship:) People who listen deeply understand how powerful it is. There are those who go to counseling or coaching who have never been listened to well. The coach or counselor is often the first person to sit quietly and really want to understand. This is a profound experience in and of itself.
As a communication skill, we all learned in kindergarten how important it is to listen. Yet, listening may be the least-applied concept in the world.
We’re all so bent on putting our own thoughts into words that we don’t stop to think that people are much less likely to listen to us when we don’t listen to them. If she listened to me, I’d listen to her. And she’s thinking the same in return. Stalemate.
The real hard part about listening comes when someone is complaining about us, right? Hardly a second goes by before we get defensive and want to let them have it. It’s like we’re all 2-year-olds who can’t handle hearing something we don’t like.
A real test of maturity – and a great communication exercise for couples – is to practice listening to each other and really trying to understand, even when the other is complaining.
The exercise: Sit for 10 minutes together as a couple. Each of you gets five minutes to do nothing but talk about anything you want while the other does nothing but listen and try to understand.
Solo version: If your partner won’t go along, you can do this solo and without telling your partner that you’re doing it. Just mark five minutes when you’re both present and set a goal to do nothing but listen.
2. Practice Benefit of the Doubt
Of course, we all want those closest to us to give us the benefit of the doubt and not just come to the worst conclusion possible before we complete a sentence. Because we’re so used to getting accused of the worst and arguing, we eventually learn to avoid talking about anything that might incriminate us, given the shadow we live under.
Let’s put a stop to this one, assuming you’re with a partner who basically has good intentions for the relationship. You must feel rationally safe to give the other a chance, otherwise, this communication exercise isn’t for you.
This couples communication exercise should be used to discuss topics that either or both parties have been avoiding, but don’t require professional intervention.
The exercise: Agree to spend a few minutes talking about an issue in your relationship, while consciously seeing the other as a well-intended person who wants good things for the relationship, even if s/he isn’t perfect.
Solo version: If your partner isn’t interested in doing a formal communication exercise as a couple, you can decide to spend a few minutes every day consciously extending the benefit of the doubt to your partner. Your responses to him/her should reflect this. Over time, this could have a positive impact on your relationship.
3. Role Reversal
If you want a way to ensure proper listening and giving the benefit of the doubt, do a role reversal communication exercise as a couple.
Role reversal is simple. Have a conversation in which you each role-play or pretend to be the other person. Let’s say you’re trying to decide where to go on vacation or who should do the dishes.
The exercise: Each of you will play the part of the other in a conversation, making the points you believe the other would make. If you do it honestly, you can learn a lot about how you see each other.
Solo version: A strange one for a solo version, but you can do it. In a normal conversation, just speak as if you were representing your partner (to your partner). You can use pronouns like you always do, especially if the other doesn’t know you’re engaged in this little experiment.
And there you go, three excellent communication exercises for couples that you cannot avoid benefiting from if you do them!
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