Imagine you’re on a date, and they talk about something you feel passionately about. You suddenly cut in and share your own two cents. Next thing you know, you’re talking at cross purposes trying to get your points across. You’re no longer communicating! He’s talking about his travel passion, and you are talking about the last time you were sea sick….He’s talking about how fantastic and supportive his family is. You’re talking about how you dislike your families involvment with decision making. It happens all the time. Crossed wires brought on by your desire to be heard and have your say.
We all know how important it is to listen. Listening to someone else when our desire to be heard is stronger feels conflicting. It’s hard.
Poor communication when it comes to love and relationships happens because we’re afraid of losing ourselves in the conversation. When we have a conversation, we over-focus on what we want to say so much so that we focus less on the response. This throws the conversation out of wack. You’re know talking at cross purposes and no one hears the other. As a result, no one is heard.
What gets in the way of hearing in the first place? When a thoughtless comment is made, we get triggered. Then we feel hurt. Many take this as a cue to run for the hills or defend themselves with an argument. We go into fight or flight mode. While this may be a normal and even a healthy and protective reaction it doesn’t help us complete conversations or draw conclusions. When triggered we can’t tend to our hurt feelings. Feelings trump focusing on the content of the conversation and sidetrack us.
This is what you need to do to yield fruitful Communication
- When your date or partner says something that triggers a strong response in you, before reacting, notice how it affects you.
See where you notice the response inside of your body. What emotional response comes up for you? Is it possible that it reminds you of something else? Did you get hurt by a similar situation previously? Sometimes people say things that hit a raw nerve created by someone else or a different experience that hasn’t healed. When this happens, these triggers threaten us. Make us feel unsafe.
2. Never Respond With a Knee Jerk Reaction.
Mull the idea over first. Calm yourself down. Know they didn’t intend to harm you intentionally.
3. Ask Questions to Clarify Their Assertions
It’s easy to assume someone’s intentions. They may have meant something completely different to how you heard it. While you may feel under attack, they’re just sharing a simple anecdote. It wasn’t intended to be personal. Yet it feels personal to you.
4. Take The Time to Understand the Other Persons Perspective.
By understanding their perspective better, it may inform or influence your own perspective.
How did what they say affect you? Ask yourself whether it’s possible the intention wasn’t to be hurtful. By stepping out of your own feelings you’ll hear the other person better.
Imagine your date or partner was sharing a story about an experience they had as a young child as an attempt to be vulnerable and connect with you. In hearing their story something they say about their experience makes you feel they don’t have a strong capacity to hold onto their emotions. You’ve dated others in the past who didn’t stand up for you or support you. Perhaps your own father couldn’t protect you. You’re now triggered.
You have a choice. Either stay with feeling triggered and react. Or notice how you feel, get curious from a distance. Confirm you fears before responding.
5. Break Down the Conversation into Bite Sizes.
As the saying goes “תפסת מרובה, לא תפסת”. If you try to bite off too much at once, you end up with nothing.
When triggered, you speed up to avoid feeling pain. This reaction has an adverse effect. Speeding up makes us feel more stressed and agitated. Instead we need to slow things down so that we can both hear and understand what the other person said.
6. Offer What You Have To Say, Only After You Thoroughly Understand their Perspective.
This way you can respond to what said.
7. Hold On To Your Perspective. Don’t Assume You’re Correct. Get Clear About their Points of View.
Share your perspective in a way that is calm and cool. This way you can be heard.
8. Never Assume!!!
We all know that…But we struggle to hold back our assumptions and ask. We fear knowing the truth, or our worst fears being realized. We have to be open to facing the truth and dealing with it, even if it hurts.
9. There is no true wrong or right…only different perspectives…
You may even want to get super creative and merge your ideas together.
Being able to be flexible in your thinking does so much. It helps you learn new things and also helps you connect with a wider range of people who may influence your world. The more flexible we can be the more open we are to a world of possibilities. Research by Dr. David Olsen from the University of Minnesota has shown that couples who are more flexible have higher success rates. Of course, we have to first be flexible individuals before we can be a flexible couple.
10. Be Flexible in Your Opinions:
Just because you change your own opinion mid-conversation it doesn’t mean you aren’t a well thought out, genuine person. In fact, it shows that you can be flexible, which is one of the greatest keys to relationship success!!!
We don’t have to marry our opinions. We can know what they are, with an eye towards others opinions. This way you can stay grounded in your own opinions while hearing others and letting them into your world.
Try incorporating these ideas into your next heated conversation. You never know how holding back your own thoughts at first may actually enrich your own perspective and enable you to understand your dates better. The more you understand your triggers and what causes these triggers the more we can self sooth, calm ourselves down and be open to a greater world of possibilities.
Micki Lavin-Pell is a professional Marriage therapist and Relationship Coach. Check out her website for more information about how she can greatly improve the success of your relationships: http://www.mickilavinpell.co.il.