Most if not all couples talk to each other or communicate every day, so what is this “couple’s communication” really about? During couples therapy session, I used to ask couples what key elements make up effective communication and while listening did get mentioned most often the mind set remained on the side of delivery. We have a historical experience that suggests if someone does not understand what we are saying we need to figure out a way for them to understand, or “get it”. Couples communication in the therapeutic format is really more about the listening side.
From my couples counseling experience, there are 3 main components to this process that are simple and easy to do:
- The 1st is to restate what you just heard from your partner via reflecting, mirroring or as a more easy way to remember this step, do what a well trained parrot can do and repeat what you heard. There are lots of ways to convey this reflective/mirroring process with simple sentences such as; “I heard you say”, or “if I’m hearing you correctly you said” and or any other natural phrase that works for you.
- The 2nd is to provide some form of acknowledgement and validation. People tend to have a hard time with this one. “But that doesn’t make sense to me!” “I don’t get that!” “They’re wrong!!” Yes, all of those statements may be true, but we need to remember effective communication starts with understanding others points of views and opinions, or statements that may not align with our own. If they did there would be no argument! Again keep it simple with a statement such as “I can understand that” or a little more advanced “that makes sense given the situation”.
- The 3rd is most often overlooked and lost when couples are trying to “communicate” with each other is recognition of feelings. Acknowledgement of how the OTHER person feels is very important! It is best to try and guess 3 feelings and be open to correction if you are wrong. Some examples could be “you must be feeling…”, “sounds like you might be feeling…” and “you are (feelings)”.
These steps are here more so for you to explore where you may need to improve when you are communicating with your partner. Couples communication work can be very challenging and often needs support from an outside resource to create a routine and develop a habit of communication that can be repeated on a consistent basis. If you both commit to working harder towards listening, making these changes may be helpful when you are taking the time to truly listen to the other while completing the 3 steps. This communication change does not solve the problem, but it is a crucial first step in changing the communication style of the couple and allowing for dialogue that may be productive versus counter-productive or hurtful.
Contact our couples counselor in Pleasanton to help improve communication in your relationship.