WOMEN EXPLAIN TO MEN THE BEST WAY
TO COMMUNICATE IN A RELATIONSHIP
June 21, 2008
Every so often, I run across another author who has something to say which I believe can be valuable to the midlifebachelor.com community. Luise from http://www.what-women-want-from-men.com is such a author – she has a website full of great material … so you should definitely check it out some time. With her permission, I give you her version of Women Explain to Men the Best Way to Communicate in a Relationship …
To be fair, women could also practice being better listeners (we probably have the talking part down!), and we’re willing to work on it. There are a few really basic rules of communication that apply to men and women alike. Both sides have to be committed to changing lousy communication habits.
What do I mean by good communication? Glad you asked …
How to be a GREAT communicator:
1. Knowing how to communicate well means being a good listener. This is easier said than done. Most people (notice I say “people” and not just men) are poor listeners. Much of the time we do things like judge what the other person is saying, rehearse what we are going to say while the other person is still talking, change the subject or make a joke about it, interrupt before the other person finishes, or give advice the second the other person stops talking. There are other ways we don’t listen to each other but you get the idea.
2. Look at your partner when she is talking to you (unless you’re driving fast on the freeway), turn off the TV or radio, take off your head phones, stop whatever it is you’re doing and give her your full attention. If it’s truly a bad time for you to discuss an issue, then agree on the soonest possible time that’s convenient for both of you. Both sides have to be willing and/or able to communicate at that moment.
3. Paraphrase what your partner has just said to you. This may seem tedious and artificial but it is amazing how we think the other understands what we just said when in fact s/he didn’t. Paraphrasing forces everyone to be on the same page and helps you suspend your judgments and strong feelings for the moment. And it feels good to know that your partner really ‘gets’ what you just said. (Not necessarily agrees with what you just said but we’re coming to that soon …)
You can start by saying something like, “So what you’re saying is…” or “So you think that…” When you’re paraphrasing, you may need to ask your partner to clarify what she is saying. You may need to go back and forth with questions until she is satisfied that her message has been heard. There’s no room for blaming or belittling here. And you don’t need to try to solve any problems at this point either. You’re just trying to get the facts straight, like a reporter. Knowing how to communicate also means knowing the right questions to ask.
4. Once your partner is satisfied that you understand exactly what she said, then it’s time to give her some empathy and validation. Whether you agree with her or not, she is entitled to her thoughts and feelings (and you are too!) and a simple statement like, “I can see how you would feel that way,” or “I don’t blame you for feeling that way,” will make her feel like you care about her feelings. Only after you’ve taken the important steps of paraphrasing and empathizing can you progress to the next step: communicating your feedback.
5. Now is your chance to tell her what you think of what she has just said. If you disagree with her, calmly state your reasons. You can still respect what she says/thinks, even if you disagree. We are all entitled to our opinions. And when everyone feels heard and understood, it’s so much easier to try to communicate and solve problems than when everyone is up in arms and worked up because a disagreement escalated to a fight.
If you stop to think about it, it’s amazing how bad we are at listening to each other. We’re usually so focused on getting our message across that we don’t stop to think about how we’re doing as receivers. Becoming a good listener takes a lot of practice. Hardly any of us were taught good communication skills when we were kids, but it’s absolutely ESSENTIAL if you want to have the best relationship possible. If men could do just this much, they would be way ahead in the love game.