Rule: Quality of communication equals quality of a relationship.
There’s probably no one who would disagree with that. Psychology confirms it, and every marriage counselor can bear witness to countless relationships that were ruined because of poor communication between partners. But still, we all keep making same mistakes over and over again. Why do we do that? Well, most of us don’t ever question the way in which we speak to our loved ones, and believe that we’re doing a fairly good job saying what we want to say. It’s often hard for us to notice the errors we have grown so accustomed to. And these can sometimes cost us our relationship and happiness. Nonetheless, there’s also good news – even though old habits die hard, learning to communicate in a healthy and productive manner is not that difficult, and all it takes is a little practice.
Here are four very frequent communication mistakes, and ways to get rid of them.
Communication mistake #1: “You” sentences
- “You drive me crazy!”
- “You should know me better by now!”
- “You need to help me more”
It’s hard not to hurdle so-called “you” sentences towards our partner when we’re upset, and it’s equally difficult not to blame them for our negative emotions. However, using such language can only result in our significant other fighting back in an equal fashion, or shutting down on us. Instead, we should exercise expressing our feelings and wants. For example, try saying: “I feel angry/sad/hurt/misunderstood when we fight”, or “I would really appreciate if you could take out the trash in the evenings, I feel overwhelmed with all the housework”.
Communication mistake #2: Universal statements
- “We always fight about the same thing!”
- “You never listen!”
- “Everyone would agree with me!”
This is a common mistake in communication and in thinking. It’s an easy way to destroy any chance of a productive conversation. That is, if we use an “always” or a “never”, all the other side needs to do is to point out one exception (and there’s always one), and the discussion is over. Instead, try being as accurate and specific as possible, and speak of that particular situation (disregard whether it repeats itself for a thousandth time) and how you feel about it.
Communication mistake #3: Mind-reading
This error goes in two directions, and both prevent us from truly communicating with our loved ones. Being in a relationship gives us a beautiful feeling of oneness. Unfortunately, this comes with a danger of expecting that our loved one will read our mind. And we also believe that we know them better than they know themselves, that we know what they “really think” when they say something. But, it’s probably not so, and it’s definitely a risk to assume it is. So, try speaking your mind out loud in an assertive manner when you need or want something, and allow your other half to do the same (also, respect their perspective regardless of what you might think).
Communication mistake #4: Criticizing an individual, instead of actions
“You’re such a slacker/nag/insensitive and inconsiderate person!”
It’s natural to feel frustrated in a relationship from time to time, and it’s also completely expected that you’re going to feel the urge to blame it on your partner’s personality. Nonetheless, effective communication makes a difference between the person and their actions. If we resolve to criticizing our partner, their personality or characteristics, they will inevitably become defensive, and probably fight back. The conversation is over. Try talking about their actions instead, about what precisely made you feel so irritated: “It would mean a lot to me if you could help me with chores a bit”, “I feel annoyed and unworthy when you criticize me”, “I feel ignored and unimportant to you when you say such things”. Such statements bring you closer to your partner and open a dialogue, without them having to feel under attack.
Do you recognize any of these common mistakes in communication with your partner? Or maybe all of them? Don’t be hard on yourself – it’s really easy to slip into these traps of our minds and succumb to decades of communication habits. And such small things, as phrasing our feelings in a wrong way, can make a difference between a healthy and fulfilling relationship, and a doomed one. However, good news is that if you’re willing to commit some effort to improving the way in which you communicate with your partner and practice the solutions we proposed, you’ll begin to reap the rewards right away!