I often hear clients say “Well, open communication is EVERYTHING, isn’t it?!” or “I had to be honest!”
Yes, it’s absolutely important to feel that you can talk to your partner about anything that is important to you, and it is good to be honest about your thoughts and feelings.
That’s ONE side of the equation. And then there is your partner – the person on the RECEIVING end of the communication.
We have a responsibility to take into consideration how our communication is going to be landing on them.
This doesn’t mean we resort to half-truths, beating around the bush, or suppressing all we want to communicate, but it does invite us to develop some greater skill in our communication.
AND — taking into consideration how someone else will feel about what we have to say is actually a benefit to US, so it’s a good skill to develop.
First of all, it’s important to get clear why we want to say what we want to say to our partner. There are all kinds of reasons to communicate, so be aware of what is most important for you to get across to them and also know why. KNOW what you want to ask for, what you need or want in the situation.
For example, when our partner does something we don’t like, it’s tempting to just tell them what they’re doing wrong, or to tell them we don’t like it.
This is when it’s a good time to stop and ask yourself, “If someone said it to me the way I want to say it to my partner, how would I respond?”
None of us likes to be criticized, and I’m sure your intention isn’t simply to lob some criticism at your partner for what they’re doing. If you dig a little deeper, chances are there is something you need from them that you are not getting.
The trouble is, if something comes across like a criticism, your partner will probably shut down and will no longer really be hearing what you are saying.
It is so much more helpful to them, instead of just telling them what’s wrong, to give them a direction for what you prefer.
Once we are clear what we want from our partner, we need to ask for it in a way that will actually be HEARD. So taking our partner’s feelings into consideration is actually serving OUR needs!
Do you notice how when someone gives you a sincere compliment, or some appreciation or acknowledgment, that it makes you open up to them and become more receptive?
This is a very good first step in beginning a conversation that would include asking your partner for something you need from them. It could go something like this:
“I really appreciate that you were willing to do this for me today _____________ and I know you put a lot of effort into it, and I’m really very grateful. I was thinking about something that would be very helpful to me, and I’m wondering if next time you could just add this to it _______________ , is that something you’d be willing to do? Thank you so much for taking that into consideration – that would work better for me and would make me appreciate you even more!”
This formula of acknowledgment, stating something you’ve been thinking about or considering, asking if they’d be willing, and appreciating their reply, is a formula that can be applied to many different situations – whether it’s about a task that needs to be done a certain way, or a behavior that affected your feelings, or a simple request for more appreciation or affection for yourself.
If your partner has been a provider, it’s especially important to not take for granted all they have provided. The provider person in the partnership wants to feel that they are making their partner happy, because if they don’t feel their partner being happy through what they’re providing, it stops being a joy and becomes a chore or obligation that they will get tired of.
So keep the inspiration alive by always appreciating the lengths and efforts someone has put in for you, and show your happiness and gratitude for what they provide. My colleague and friend, relationship expert John Gray, says that what women (or the feminine partner) need most from a relationship is safety and security and what men (or the masculine partner) need most is appreciation and acknowledgment.
There are studies that indicate women are able to take a lot more criticism on a regular basis than men are, so if your partner is a man, notice if what you are saying may sound a bit on the critical side – it can be quite crushing to him and can destroy a relationship.
A couple other examples – if you simply need to vent – you may have just experienced something very frustrating – ask your partner if they’d be willing to simply listen to you vent for about 10 minutes without trying to fix things for you – this alerts them to what they can provide for you.
And then put a time limit on it – it does you no good either to keep going over stressful situations. After your vent, go relax and give yourself time to process on your own. Communicate to your partner that you need to take some alone time and you’ll be back after you’ve processed, when you will be in a better place to be there for them.
Or – you might be the type of person that feels a burning need to share all the details going on in your life. Before you do, ask yourself how your partner might feel about hearing so much about people and situations they are not familiar with?
You may have the idea that if they really care about you, they ought to care about every detail of your experiences and how you felt about them, but even the most devoted partner has their limits.
Instead, use your appreciation formula to say something like this: “You are such a great listener and I appreciate how you listen to everything I have to share all the time. I’ll try to keep it brief, but can I just tell you one little thing that happened to me today?”
And then stick to your side of the bargain and keep it BRIEF. They can always ask you for more detail if they really want to know. As they say in show business, “leave them wanting more!”
In conclusion, open and honest communication in a relationship is a privilege that should be used with tremendous respect for each other. Be clear why you need to say what you feel you need to say,, and ask your partner to consider what you need. Our partners are not mind-readers, no matter how much we wish them to be. Communicating what you need in a loving, calm, and inclusive manner will keep the sparks of love burning!
Let me know by commenting below or on my Facebook page here if you’ve had communications that didn’t go well or that did go well, and what you learned about how you affect other people’s feelings with your communication style.
And if you feel you need more guidance in your communication, set up a free consultation with me here to see if we are a good match for working together!