Today I’m talking about couples and communication.
Some of you may consider these two words to be in perfect harmony and that’s awesome for you and your partner!
However, for many of us when we hear the words “couples” and “communication” in the same sentence we sarcastically laugh a little.
We’re emotionally invested
Due to the emotional investment we have in this type of relationship communicating our feelings can often be our biggest struggle.
In a romantic relationship, we are typically very emotionally invested.
Invested to the point that we are expressing ourselves emotionally rather than effectively communicating what we are feeling.
We are not our feelings
If you’ve ever wondered why you can effectively express yourself at work, but not with your partner or family members you can thank good old emotions for that.
Since we know that stifling our emotions is not healthy and is not a good long term fix, how can we effectively communicate our feelings, wants and needs when we are emotionally invested?
I want to share a technique with you that can take you from sarcastic laughter to feeling all yin & yang with these two words.
This is my favorite technique specifically for couples who have a need for improved communication and conflict resolution skills. It is what I like to call, “Narrative Talk.”
We can break this term down a little to understand the meaning and idea behind it.
Narration is the use of written or spoken commentary to convey a story to the audience.
In this case, you would consider yourself the narrator of your story to your partner, which includes your thoughts and feelings related to the topic at hand
Narrative therapy is a form of therapy that views people as separate from their problems. Encouraging them to tell their story narratively to gain some distance from the “problem.”
Talking narratively can help you gain distance from the issue and view things more objectively and less emotionally.
This distance will improve your ability to effectively express your thoughts and feelings related to the issue.
Whenever I’m working with this technique I pretty much always hear Morgan Freeman’s voice in my head.
I typically recommend that you think of a narrator’s voice for yourself as well. This can improve objectivity and it’s just fun.
You can have your choice of the narrator of course!
Taking this a step further, when working to identify concrete goals of communication, I often recommend that you think of yourself and your goals as a movie that you’re writing the script for.
How do the characters talk? Where are they? What are they wearing? Who are they with, etc.?
Taking ourselves out of the picture, looking at things a little more objectively helps us to not only identify our wants and needs but to effectively express these and our related thoughts and feelings.
Here’s a general example of what I mean by narrative talk.
Let’s use the emotion of “Anger” as an example.
However, really any emotion can be placed in anger’s spot below.
- When you are angry, instead of allowing yourself to become the emotion and react angrily.
- You can state, “I feel angry.”
- You can then further identify and state specifically what is going on that you are feeling this way.
- You can take this a step further with goal oriented and solution focused speech by stating how you would prefer the conversation be going and what end goal or solution you would like from this conversation.
This allows the overarching theme of the conversation to continue, opposed to allowing yourself to become the emotion and react off of anger.
Once you become better able to identify your feelings, you can start to become proactive when doing this.
Instead of stating how you are feeling, you can identify how you are going to start feeling and communicate that.
For example, if you’re in a heated conversation with your partner and you can identify that you are starting to feel angry. You could say something like, “This conversation is starting to get heated and It’s likely that I will start becoming angry.”
Then without fully reaching the being angry stage, you can better communicate your thoughts related to the topic at hand.
Best case scenario
This technique tends to work best when a couple is working together in couples therapy. That way each partner is aware of what is going on and the goal.
However, even though communication and conflict among the couple may be one of the primary problem areas in an individual’s life this does not necessarily always mean that the couple is coming to counseling.
Often in individual counseling, especially with someone in a relationship, difficulty communicating and resolving conflict within their relationship is one of the primary issues.
If this is the case and narrative talk is going to be used, it can be helpful that the individual in counseling is able to be open with their partner and vice versa.
In counseling, the individual can work on how to best describe the skills they will be using to their partner.
Having a partner that is aware you are going to counseling and is open to helping you practice and use effective skills to improve the relationship is definitely the best case scenario.
This is a great time to be open with your partner
Be honest about what your current areas of need are and what your goals are for yourself and your relationship.
However, having each partner open and willing is not always the case. While you may be actively working on yourself and improving your relationship your partner may not be.
This may result in a need to make some choices. Choices could include what compromises you are willing to make and picking and choosing your battles.
Narrative therapy can be helpful with this as well. Helping you to distance yourself and increase your objectivity of the current situation.
If I can be of any help here at Inherent Strength, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I’m always happy to respond to emails or schedule a quick free of charge phone consult.
We all have the ability to reach our goals. Together let’s develop our inherent strengths to do so!