Effective communication is often a cooperatively learned skill that is accomplished with patience, understanding and love.
By Sara K.
Every marriage book, course and therapist around talks about the key to a great marriage lays in effective communication. What they don’t say is that what’s effective for one couple is most definitely not effective for another. If you are a couple on the road to recovery, healing from infidelity or an affair, please read on and let me know if any of this resonates with you.
The Scene we’ve all seen (or been in) before:
Man and wife sitting across from one another in a restaurant. They both randomly check their Blackberries or I-phones. They grasp at conversations that don’t revolve around menus or children. Occasionally, the bored wife looks around the room and we make eye contact. I quickly look in the other direction so I don’t feel just as uncomfortable seeing what they are going through as they are living it. After all, that was me just a few short years ago.
Tricks for Effective Communication
Here are some tricks to effectively communicate that work for me and my relationship. Some are gathered from my research, some from my therapist friends and some from trial and error.
Distraction Retraction – Rule #1 to effective communication is to rid yourselves of the distractions. Be it children, the television or the ole cell phone. You both committed to putting your marriage back on track so put each other before the to do lists and the texts. Focus your time and attention on keeping that promise. Create a no cell phone rule during time together. Boundaries like this will serve you well to bring connections and conversation back to a good place.
Wait, what? Now I have to come up with topics, feign interest in his work and roll my eyes when he says the same thing over and over. While at first this may seem scary, after all, all the pressure is now ON, we’ll deal with all of that in a moment.
Eye Contact – So simple, yet so easy to ignore, eye contact is the most effective way to let another person know you are actually paying attention to them.
In so many television shows men are portrayed as the dumbest species on the planet. They need to constantly be reminded to refocus. Actually, research shows that because women are always multi-tasking, they are actually the worse of the species at eye contact. Looking away to see who’s entering the room (and what they are wearing or who they are with…), checking the time, looking at someone else’s yummy meal are all signals to your partner that those things are much more interesting than they are…Which leads me to…
Interest – One of the biggest challenges couples face (especially parents) is sustaining interest. It’s been a long day, lots of responsibilities on both sides and the last thing you want to do is have to pay attention to someone else! You want to sit at that table and have someone finally listen to you.
But, guess what? So does your spouse. You both have work, kids and tons of things floating around in the mind. This is your chance to both talk and listen. Showing interest in your spouses ‘stuff’ will allow you the chance to then air your thoughts. If you don’t get to your ‘stuff’, bring that up for discussion…
Feeling heard is one of the key components to feelings loved for both men and women.
No Rewind/Replay – The most common mistake made in ineffective communicating is judging what the other is saying. Judgments are almost a sure-fire way to either end communicating or begin an argument. Thinking you know exactly what your spouse will respond with mind-reading and playing out the resentments in your head only kick start a lovely dinner out to reconnect, into a battle of rewind and replay over and over.
Sharyn told her husband David about her horrible day dealing with a sick kid. Cleaning up vomit became worse when her best friend called and made things all about her again. You wanted to get sympathy or maybe a “that sucks” from your husband but, instead you got: “Oh, please, she always acts that way to you. I don’t know why you put up with it. Just stop complaining about it and dump her as a friend or get over it already.”
You just knew David would respond that way, right? You are about to enter the rewind and replay. Playing out the same scenario over and over with no resolve. This conversation could actually have itself.
Having your spouse judge you and your friend is not the way to effectively communicate.
However, this is an opportunity for you to do some damage control before this becomes hurt feelings and a repeat argument.
Gently explaining that you just wanted to be listened to and understood is often very shocking to men. Most men’s makeup of communication is to become a problem solver. It’s not their fault or even a detriment it’s just actually the nature of men.
Centuries ago, hunters and gatherers needed to problem solve constantly to provide for their families. So, by nature they hear you complain about a problem and they see an easy solution – dump the friend.
Effective communication teaches that by explaining what you need at that moment (just listening) will then elicit what you actually want (just feeling heard).
I know what’s coming:
But, WHY do I have to tell him what to do after all this time? Why can’t he just figure it out?!!?
Well, my dear, because either You Never Told Him OR more often: He Never Heard You.
In my research with Dr. V, a successful marriage and relationship counselor for over 20 years, she estimates that 100 percent of women (and to quote my husband 56% of statistics are made up on the spot) feel that men should just figure it out. But, men are shockingly human, and do need to be taught what you need just like you need to be taught what he needs.
Explaining that you just want to talk and have someone care and sympathize with you may be news to your man. Additionally, he may actually need some help learning how to do this. Becoming an effective communicator is often a cooperatively learned skill that is accomplished with patience, understanding and love.
Affirmative, John – Surprisingly, Men actually need a very similar listening technique to women but with one twist. Most men love to be heard, but actually want something more: Affirmation.
Research shows that Affirmation is the #1 way to a man’s heart. Effective communication allows a man to talk about his day, his job, his stressors and his insecurities and have his woman tell him he handled it all well. Hearing that the most important woman in his life affirms his hard work, his passion for career and family life balance and gives him a well-deserved pat on the back, reaffirms his love for you and ignites the passion within.
By practicing and paying attention to what each of you needs in your marriage, communication-wise, you are opening up a new road that is clean and clear of the Replay/Rewind and Resentments.
If you are in the marriage to only Be Right, reassess what you’re really doing there. Winning at marriage is being successful communicators and supporters; doing what it takes to succeed for the long run. Being right will only get you a trophy to an empty life and dinners filled with silence. Not much of a trophy in my book!
Did you learn any tricks through your healing process that have improved your Effective Communication? If so, please share!