How You Talk To Each Other

In every interaction, there are always two levels of communication going on simultaneously:  What you’re saying and how you’re saying it. How many times do we say things without thinking about how it’s coming across to our partner?  And then we get frustrated because our partner isn’t hearing us. How many times do we resist, get defensive or come right back at our partner when we don’t like their tone?  And then we don’t even listen to the content of what they’re saying. I’m sure most of you have been on either or both sides of this kind of interaction.  And you know from past experience that it doesn’t go very well.  It typically leads to arguing, disconnection, hurt feelings and resentment. So what’s a couple to do? It helps if both partners take personal responsibility for their role in this kind of interaction. If you’re the one trying to get your point across, you might want to consciously choose not only what you want to say but the way you want to say it.  One healthy choice is to use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘You’ statements.  So in the picture above, instead of the boy trying to control the girl, he could say, “When you start gardening right before we’re supposed to leave, ‘I’ feel unimportant.”  When you do this, you keep the focus on yourself while still letting your partner know what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.  Rather then your partner shutting down because of feeling judged, blamed or not good enough, he/she will be better able to listen to you without taking your comments personally. If you’re on the receiving end of your partner’s controlling energy, it’s important to remember that your partner’s tone has nothing to do with you.  It’s his/her feeling and you can’t make your partner talk that way to you.  What you do have control over is how you respond.  I know how hard this can be sometimes.  When you get triggered by your partner’s tone It takes a lot of inner strength to not react by getting defensive, withdrawing, or arguing back.  The more you value yourself the better you'll be able to manage your feelings.  When you know that you didn’t cause, can’t control and can’t change your partner’s behavior, you'll be able to set loving boundaries with your partner.  In the picture above, this might look like the girl saying, “It doesn’t feel good to be talked to like that, do you want to talk about why you’re so upset?”  When you're able to respond like this, you’ll find out if your partner is open to sharing what’s going on with him/her or you'll learn that your partner is closed and you need to disengage with love. When you're both open to learning and willing to take personal responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and behavior, you’ll replace arguing with understanding and empathy.  And when you do this you’ll both feel more connected and cared for in your relationship.