Keeping Your Conversation on Track.

Why do our conversations with our partner sometimes end up going sideways? In the end you feel frustrated, like you didn’t get your idea across and that you were not understood. How does this keep happening? I want to give you some suggestions that will help you get a more positive end result. Think of these 5 pillars of communication that should help you stay on track. 

  1. Build on a positive foundation of friendship and partnership: This is something you should always be working on in the relationship. Show appreciation for your partner, share a compliment. This sets a tone of connection and being a team. So when you are ready to share a concern it can be helpful to start with a statement of admiration or respect. Then your partner does not feel under attack but feels like a teammate is coming with a concern. 
  2. Accept influence: Your way is not always the only way or the right way. You and your partner are different people who see the world differently. You need to work within your differences and adapt. So try to understand a different perspective. You might need to look beneath the surface and ask questions to uncover what is behind the concern. Each of you can show vulnerability, this can only be achieved through trust and consideration. 
  3. When sharing your concern identify the pressing issue: It is helpful if you can be clear and keep things short and to the point. You want to avoid overwhelming your partner with too much challenging information that they can’t take in. It is better to keep it simple.    
  4. Talk about yourself: What I mean is that what you know best is how you feel and how this is affecting you. So share that. How could you be contributing to this problem? What is your responsibility? It might be helpful to talk about your fears and what is important to you and why.
  5. What is your goal: What is your hope that the future will look like? What are the changes you are looking for and how will this change make you feel? Then you can make some suggestions for how you think you can implement these changes. Make your suggestions and then ask “Does that work for you ?”

So many times we do the opposite of this and the result is we get off track. We start out with words that feel like an attack, we blame and criticize our partner. Then we state what needs to be done without being open to any other ideas. We talk about everything that is bothering us instead of keeping it simple and clear. We talk about what the other persons’ mistakes are and what we believe their thoughts and motives are and lastly we are unclear of what exactly we want to achieve. This is very confusing. I hope you can think about some of these suggestions and keep your conversations on track so you can work together as a partnership.

If you need any help, just call me at 562-260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

The 3 gifts of Healthy Active Listening

I am sure we all have had times when we have shared our thought or concerns with our partner and it ends up either in an argument, a standoff, or they walk away and it just never gets resolved. This is extremely frustrating and results in a separation in the relationship. I hope that each relationship can learn to listen in a way that encourages more honest and open communication. Healthy, active listening can be a gift in your relationship. Let me explain what I mean. The gift can be received in 3 ways.

  1. It is a gift to the other person. By taking the time to really listen and understand your partners ideas, you validate them and allow them to feel safe and secure in sharing their ideas with you. This minimizes their stress and anxiety about sharing with you and being vulnerable and honest.
  2. It is a gift to the relationship. Without trust and honesty in your relationship you are working on a foundation of dishonesty and separateness. The relationship can grow and be strengthened when each partner feels they can share their concerns and be heard. 
  3. It is a gift to yourself. This is true because you will grow in your understanding of the person you are sharing your life with, you will also learn the truth about how your behavior may be affecting the other person. This will allow you to base your feelings and behavior on something you know is true and not on manipulation or fear based conversations

In order to give these gifts we need to use tools that may feel counter intuitive. When someone comes to us with their hurt, a different perspective or a challenging accusation our reaction is to become defensive and to show them that they are wrong. This response is not going to result in any of the 3 gifts. Instead let’s look at some of the different options that may result in these gifts.

  1.  Be curious. Ask questions about what they are sharing. Not in a challenging, interrogation way but in a way that shows you are really interested in their view and thoughts. You might say, “I really want to understand what you are telling me, let me ask you…”
  2. Block defensiveness. Listen to learn and not to challenge. When they are telling you their concern do not look for their misinformation or their errors. Listen for the heart of what they are telling you and don’t nit pick their concerns apart. 
  3. Show understanding. Let the person know that you heard them and understand by saying something like, “Is this what you mean …” or “What I think you’re saying is…” This way you are checking with them, asking if you have it right and showing that you heard them. 
  4. Be open to further conversations. Let them know that you are not silencing them. You want to hear their thoughts and this does not need to be the end of hearing their concerns. 

If you are able to stick to these strategies and avoid the pitfalls of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, anger and avoidance then you will be giving the gift of support to the other person, the gift of commitment to the relationship and the gift of growth to your self. This is not easy but it can bring about great benefit to the relationship and each of you.  

If you need any help, just call me at 562-260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

4 Errors That Derail Communication

When we communicate with our partner we often jump ahead to the solution that we think is best instead of slowing the conversation down in order to gain the information needed to get to a solution that will be pleasing to each of you. Here is a list of 4 errors that can cause havoc in a relationship when trying to solve a problem with our partner. 

Error #1; We jump to a solution before really gaining all the information. For example, your partner starts to tell you their thoughts about something that is bothering them and we make assumptions of the meaning of what they are saying and what their intentions are. This is the time to be curious, asking questions to gain clarity and to try to see it from their perspective. The goal is to gain understanding. Your partner will not listen to your input unless they first feel like you understand their perspective, 

Error #2;  We sometimes react emotionally instead of showing empathy. This is the time to ask about their feelings and try to put yourself in their shoes. This is another way to show understanding but on an emotional level. Again being curious but not interrogating them with cold questions. You could ask “How did that feel when that happened to you?” and then validate their emotions by saying “That must have been sad for you, or frustrating” This does not mean that you agree with everything they say but only that you are trying to understand. If you find that your own emotions are being triggered then be honest about that too. When you each can feel safe sharing your feelings then you can make progress. You might have to take a timeout to regain your emotional balance.

Error #3;  We sometimes throw a solution at our partner which may not be what they need at all. Instead ask your partner how you can help, don’t assume what is needed. They may just want to vent their feeling to you and not really need anything done. You won’t know exactly how you can help unless you ask. 

Error #4;  Forcing the solution that you think is best onto your partner without considering them. This is not going to work. It would be better if we do something that Dr. Gottman calls “yield to win”

Yielding to win means accepting, understanding, and allowing your partner’s perspective, feelings, and needs into your decision-making process as a couple. It means really listening to your partner and forming compromises so that you both feel satisfied.”

If one of you is not happy with the solution but still goes along with it they will become resentful and frustrated. It is best to suggest a solution and then ask “How would that work for you?”. This shows that you are considering your partners viewpoint and honoring and respecting them in the decision making process. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions! Give me a call at (562) 260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong