Communication is key (they say) but where’s the key you wonder?
You’ve either heard someone say it or you’ve said it to yourself one too many times. I personally remember trying to make sense of this exact sentence through the trials and tribulations of my past relationships. It wasn’t easy. Here I was, repeating it to myself over and over again. As if somehow it would bring me back home like Dorothy and knock some sense into me, only to finding myself exercising some heavy breathing techniques before completely loosing my cool. “Things will get better. It can’t stay like this forever. This can’t possibly be the end of my fairy-tale ending. Or can it?…ergh!”. Looking back, the fact alone that I was on the floor breathing heavily to calm me down, should have been a great indication that this relationship was doomed to begin with. *sighs, smh, rolling my eyes*
I learned that there is no such thing as the perfect communicator. I am far from being it because I sometimes fall back into my old habits and put my foot right into my mouth. Where my communications skills matured is that I am now capable of recognizing the signs of saying something wrong and rectifying the situation as soon as possible. To me, that takes humility and forces you to put your ego on a shelf. You would be surprised how developing your communication skills make you feel so much more confident.
So, after years of heart breaks, sleepless nights and countless tears, I can proudly say: I FOUND MY KEY! While it may not be a shinny and perfect key but with a little buffing, I’m getting there!
If this can help you in any way, I have come up with a list of 8 of my most memorable communication “ah-ha moments”.
Here they are:
1) Chances are, he’s not a mind reader: The first time someone said that to me, I had the biggest ah-ha moment ever. That’s why I placed this at number 1. Its true! I mean, no matter how obvious you think you are, chances are he won’t know what you need at all times. That doesn’t mean he’s not right for you, it just means he just doesn’t know! So put away your white board and neon lights and TELL HIM. As women, we come from a set of expectations that were put into our brains at a very young age (you can thank all those fairy tale Disney movies for that). We come into a relationship with expectations about how things SHOULD be and how he SHOULD behave. The reality is, that when two lives collide, you both come with your own set of baggage and there is no right or wrong way of doing things. So STOP EXPECTING and instead tell him how you feel. Usually, a simple conversation should turn the lights on in the penthouse and everyone should get back to being happy. P.S.: I know, to all of you devoted romantics out there, telling him how you to make you happy doesn’t seem like the sexiest thing but isn’t the end result EXACTLY what you were looking for? So stop pouting and take control of your happiness by telling him. Matter of fact, if he truly cares about you, he will want to know. So its not as romantic having to ask, but who knows?!? Now that he understands how important this is to you, maybe he’ll get out of his way to massage your feet one day and he might even moan at the next lasagna night. So he didn’t come up with it on his own, just enjoy taking in the moment.
2) Don’t listen to reply to the argument. Listen to understand the point: Ever had an argument where you can barely get to your point without being interrupted? Active listening means to actually listen and take mental notes. Furthermore, letting someone finish let’s them know you respect their opinion and what they say has value to you. What you should be focusing on when someone speaks to you is how you are going to sum up what you just heard. Then you are going to express how you feel towards what they just said in a very calm fashion. If they are right, say you are right and express how you are going to change the behavior now that you know it bothers them. If they are wrong, simply express what you truly meant to say in different words. I also recommend apologizing for not expressing yourself properly “I am sorry I didn’t express myself properly. What I meant to say was….” Now that is effective listening! See, the one thing we all have in common as human beings is that we all want to be heard, we all want to feel like our words have meaning and we all want to know that we, as individuals, matter. Especially to those we love. Otherwise, no one would care enough to sit across from you and have this discussion to begin with! Its not easy to listen. Its not easy to apply this to every single discussion either but if you want to change arguments into an active growing experience, you may consider giving this a try. The result? I can promise you’ll leave the discussion more uplifted and much closer to your partner. Remember: Disagreements and mistakes are normal. You are not the same person. You are two different people bringing in your lives together. Arguments are normal, its how you handle them that matters most.
3) Focus on the current problem: In the heat of an argument, its often hard to focus on one problem at a time. If you are the type to bundle things in then one day…**KABOOM** everything comes out at once. Keep you head leveled, and say what you have to say but focus on that one and only problem today. What he did last Friday is too late to bring up. Move on passed it.
4) Be mindful of your body language: Often times, the person we talk to is not necessarily reacting to our words, they are acting to facial expressions or body language. Be mindful of what you may look like when you are expressing yourself. Remember: Perception is reality to the eyes of other. So rolling your eyes means you don’t care but you may really mean to say “awww I messed up again”. Shouting and screaming may signal that you are beyond angry but mean while you are just emphasizing on a point that matters to you most. Ask yourself: Does my body language say “this means war” or does it say “you are trying to resolve this as humanly possible”? Don’t overlook your tone and your choice of words either. They too play an important role in your message delivery. If you are calm but use hurtful words that are snarky, well you will look as equally offensive as someone who is screaming and shouting. No matter how you chose to convey your message, remember communication is 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. That’s HUGE!
5) Be careful with your choice of words: While we are on the topic, avoid using words like: “you always” or “you never” or “everything” or “every time”. These types of words are offensive and place the entire person’s identity in jeopardy over one simple mistake. You know that one mistake doesn’t make your partner a repeat offender so why use words to describe just that? This is a great example on how to help you stabilize the conversation before it escalates. Instead, try to keep your composure and focus on one issue at a time. This will make for a better conversation and better results. You can resolve those other issues another time when everyone has calmed down and moved on from the current problem.
6) Be honest: Sometimes the truth hurts, telling someone how you really feel is what makes for a healthy relationship. If its done in a respectful way, the more you share, the closer you will become. The closer you become, the more you can rely on your partner. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are not perfect either. Mostly, admit your wrongs rather then making excuses for yourself. There is no place for ego in being honest during an argument. Treat this “ah-haa” tip as the perfect opportunity to get closer to your partner.
7) The 48 hour rule: Some things are worth the argument…some are not. While you may be really close to the problem and they may seem big in your head…they really aren’t. The general rule is to wait 48 hours to express how you feel. If you think the problem is worth the discussion and avoiding to talk about it may be a bigger problem a year from now, then wait 48 hours to calm down and collect your thoughts on how you are going to approach the situation. Remember: The more you focus on the little problem, the bigger it becomes. Letting it out in the moment usually is a recipe for disaster. Why? Because you are still in your feelings. The situation just happened and everything is so fresh. So wait 2 days! Don’t mope around like a kid and/or avoiding one another either. That’s not healthy. Go about your life, gather your thoughts and let him know how you feel calmly, slowly and positively. This exercise will make you build your own internal pendulum. I am not encouraging you to let everything roll off your back and take the punches, I am suggesting that you take the time to look collected, focused and strong before you express how you feel.
8) Be grateful: We often forget to sit and appreciate what we have. We are so focus on the day to day that its easy to pick at the smallest little details. Maybe you spend too much time together? maybe you need some girl time? or some alone time? What ever it is, be grateful of who he is as a person and don’t be shy to do what you want to do on your own. Did you know? studies show that being grateful for just a few seconds per day will bring you even more things to be grateful for in the long run. See, when you are grateful, you don’t have time to focus on the negative and that energy you exude multiplies itself and becomes contagious. So try to say things like: “Thank you for doing the dishes” rather then: “it’s about time someone else but me does something around here”, you bring joy into your home. Practice saying one grateful thing to each other every day at dinner or pillow talk or first thing in the morning. This may sound a bit ridiculous as an exercise but you will learn so much more about your partner, you will see the relationship differently and it’ll make you a happier person.
Hopefully these were helpful. While I focused on a love-relationship. These tips can be applied to ANY relationship.
I hope you do find your key to communication but while you do that, remember: While you may misplace your key once in a while, keep practicing your communications skills so you never truly lose sight of your key. In time, things will workout because they always do.