The major culprits of communication breakdown in a relationship are dead end questions. Questions like the forever dull, “How was your day?” almost never leads to any conversation worth having. Very few couples can say that they gained new insight from asking their partner about their day.
Inquiring every once in awhile is nice and shows that you care but the use of dead end questions must be kept to a minimum. When there are problems in the relationship, especially ones pertaining to communication, switch your focus to asking the right questions instead of wandering aimlessly in the dark.
How to ask the right questions
Asking the right questions is an extremely beneficial skill that can actually save your relationships. This not only applies to your relationship with your partner but your children and other family members as well. Being more mindful can help you really get to know those close to you by tapping into their hearts and minds. To give it a try, avoid general questions that do not yield a purposeful response and focus on specific questions that require an answer beyond, “fine”.
Opt for questions like:
- “What happened in that meeting today?”,
- “What did you do about (fill in the blank)?”
- “Where did you go with your friends yesterday?”
- “Who won the game last night?” (referring to a sports game)
- “Can I help you with anything today?”
All of the above require more than a one-word answer and they all display interest in a loved one’s life. Another effective tip for asking the right questions is making the effort to think before asking. Once you have a question in mind, do a quick edit in your head to make it a more meaningful one. Focus on details and feelings to really start a conversation. Very few realize this but every conversation you have with a spouse, family member or friend adds depth to the relationship. View every meaningful talk as an inch of progress and continually strive for more. Conversation is the way people show love, support, understanding and care. Also pay attention to follow up questions. They can extend a good talk.
The right questions ease conflict
Conversation is also how issues are resolved. Asking the right questions is helpful when conflict is present. Getting through challenges is how to save your relationships and better yet, make them rock solid. After a disagreement, ask questions that will encourage resolution. Something like, “At what point in the disagreement did you feel disrespected?” or “What could I have done differently?” is a step in the right direction.
Couples therapy can help
For those having difficulty changing their asking habits or just don’t see themselves communicating in this manner, consider couples therapy. Couples therapy assists couples in changing their habits by teaching both parties how to ask questions that matter. This is done through a series of exercises.
One effective exercise is asking each other intimate questions.
Rather than, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” you and your partner will challenge emotional boundaries in a very healthy way. This is done with intimate questions like, “Was there a time this week that you felt unheard?” or “What can I do to make you feel more supported?” The purpose is to teach individuals to stop generalizing their questions. Of course this will be strange at first and some may have the initial response of, “Ugh. Feelings” but after experiencing the positive effects of asking more intimate questions, both you and your partner will be more receptive.
If trouble communicating this way persists, therapy can identify mental blocks preventing you from taking this important step to improve communication and teach you how to overcome them. This may be a problem that stems from childhood, something in the relationship that has to be addressed or you may just have a hard time changing habits. Whatever it is, therapy can work you through it.
Communicate with intent
After learning how to ask the right questions, use that skill to communicate with intent. It is odd but couples and family fall into the habit of having generic conversation with one another. Such conversation is equivalent to small talk you would have with a stranger. When talking with loved ones do so with the intent of getting closer and strengthening the connection. Never miss out on opportunities to connect further.
Life is all about developing lasting relationships and enjoying those that you surround yourself with. Allow your relationships to thrive!