communication,relationships,effective communication,communication styles,communication in relationships

Communication, want to Fix it?

What lies underneath communication problems are power struggles. Someone has to win, someone has to lose.

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Welcome to episode nine. Do you really want to improve communication? Most couples that show up in my office describe themselves as having communication problems. I think we take a lot of comfort in the idea that we just have communication problems. What often lies underneath are power struggles that contaminate the communication.

There are two main styles of communication. The first is my own personal favorite, fill up the space and crowd out the other person in a sea of words. The second is to crowd out the other person by being withholding and avoiding any real conversation. The first is often self-righteous by being loud and noisy. The second is often silently self-righteous. Both are different styles of struggling for power.

The two biggest interrupters of communication are self-righteousness and power struggles. Good communication is helped by not making accusations. We too easily litter our arguments with you, you, you, and you.

Let’s take the accusation, “You are boring.” How can this be said differently without self-righteousness and the power of wounding. Make an “I” statement and ask for help, “I’m feeling bored. What can we do to make things more interesting?” Making a problem a “we” problem that can be solved and is shared instead of a dump on the other helps you feel more like a team. We’re in this together.

Wounding the other person only creates a tidal wave of defensiveness which kills off communication and makes us feel like we’re against each other.

If you are someone that fill sup the space very easily with your own point of view, then you have to be serious about making room for the other person. I decided decades ago that I used up my listening skills at the office and didn’t bring them home with me. It was hard to recognize that. Then I taught myself to put my hand over my mouth because I knew I had to do something different.

If you are someone who avoids, you have to find the courage to face things instead of deflecting. You have to be more honest about what you want instead of ending up silently resentful. If you want to communication better, than start by acknowledging the other persons point of view.

Know what makes sense about their ideas. Do this instead of demanding that your ideas are better, and then repeating yourself over and over. I’m completely amazing at our belief and faith that if we just find the right combination of words they’ll finally see it our way. Share something more vulnerable about yourself and why this matters if you want to improve communication. Greater openness always helps us communicate better.

The really terrific movie, “Last Chance Harvey,” demonstrations wonderful communication between Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. They have at least seventy minutes of conversation that includes being forthright and authentic, and vulnerability is combined with respectfulness. Their honesty with each other begins when Hoffman’s Harvey acknowledges he’s been rude to her in the airport earlier when he first encountered her. Their dance of slowly evolving love is built on substance, depth, and truth. And it’s wonderful to watch these two Golden Globe nominees communicate.

So communication works best when people risk being authentic. Being authentic requires vulnerability. One go start towards vulnerability is being able to apologize. So many people are really bad at it.

In our family I’m the best one at saying I’m sorry and really I’m the only one that does it. My daughter says that’s because I’m the one that has the most to apologize for. If you are more vulnerable, it is likely you will be more open to ideas of compromise.

Figure out how we might meet in the middle. How can I care more about your point of view instead of being stuck and insisting on my point of view having more merit? Doing this means being able to embrace more complicatedness which is always a great thing when you’re in relationships with other human beings.

Good communication requires that you learn to sit two different points of view quietly next to each other. Instead of trying to erase one of them usually both points of view have merit. Communication requires respect for both people. Too often our communication gets into trouble because we are piling on a ton of disrespect because we want to win.

So give up trying to win and communication will improve exponentially.

I have a challenge for you. Stop and think seriously about your last disagreement. What have you overlooked that is valid about your partner’s point of view? Then considering letting them know how their point of view was legitimate. Try not to make any “you” accusations in this next discussion. Ask yourself how to make a problem more of a “we” endeavor. Listen better if you are full of your own ideas. Stop avoiding and be more real if you are an avoider.

Thanks for listening. This is Rhoda, sharing what I’ve learned after thirty-five years of working with couples. Please go to iTunes to subscribe to my podcast. It’s quick and only takes click.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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