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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Relationships: Improving Communication

Every relationship has its ups and downs. Every couple has arguments from time to time, but how you communicate with each other can make the difference between a relationship surviving or failing.

How to communicate with your partner:

Listen to what your partner is saying:
There's a difference between hearing and listening. When you listen carefully, you're putting yourself in your partner's place and reflecting back what has been said. You're not thinking about what you're going to say next. You're not interrupting. You're not becoming defensive.

Relationships: Improving Communication

Speak from your own experience:
Rather than hurling accusations at your partner, speak from your own experience. It's better to say, "I feel annoyed when you..." than "You really ruined my day when you... " Most likely, your partner will be less defensive and more likely to hear what you're saying if you stick to expressing yourself by focusing on your own experience.

Stick with what's going on in the current situation:
Concentrate on the present. Don't bring up other unrelated grievances from the past. Don't retaliate by throwing out everything that ever bothered you about your partner. This will cause the discussion to spiral down to accusations and counter accusations.

Understand that you and your partner might have different needs:
It's not unusual for one person to need time to regroup before he or she can have a discussion, especially if it's about a heated topic, while the other person needs to talk about it immediately. There has to be a compromise.

On the one hand, there's no point in trying to force someone who needs a short period of time to calm down to engage in a discussion that he or she is not ready to have. It's better to allow your partner to take a break and then resume the discussion.

On the other hand, it's counterproductive for the "short break" to become a passive aggressive way to avoid the discussion altogether. You and your partner need to find a balance. It's better to discuss these differences and come up with a compromise on your different styles at a point when you're both in a good place with each other and not when you're arguing.

Take responsibility for your own your part in the problem:
It's so easy to become defensive and discount what your partner is saying, especially if you feel criticized. It takes a big person to really listen and admit when you've been at fault. If you do this, your partner is more likely to acknowledge his or her part in the problem. Then, you're more likely to reach a compromise.

Get professional help:
Ongoing arguments have a way of eroding a relationship and, before you know it, your relationship has devolved into an unhappy situation. If you and your partner have a pattern of getting into ongoing arguments or you can't seem to resolve your differences, it's time to seek the help of a licensed psychotherapist who works with couples who can help you to learn how to communicate with each other.

About Me:
I'm a licensed psychotherapist in NYC. One of my specialties is working with couples. 

To find our more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

Call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me at josephineolivia@aol.com to set up a consultation.