We love our families, but let’s face it: sometimes speaking with our loved ones is extremely challenging. Whether resolving conflict, discussing a difficult topic, or reconnecting with one another, we sometimes feel lost and defeated. We all have different ways of communicating which can make these conversations difficult, especially when emotions are high. Indeed, learning how to effectively communicate involves a few key approaches that can change your communication from “Why bother?” to worthwhile. These approaches include word choice, teamwork, and staying on topic.
Have you ever been engaged in an argument with a loved one, only to realize that the argument is no longer about the original problem? Did the argument then become how you were communicating about the problem? Eventually you may have forgotten what the original problem was about in the first place! Often the content or core issue of a disagreement becomes blurred by the way you are communicating about it.
By trying out 3 of my favorite communication techniques you’ll be starting on a road to reconnection, conflict resolution, and more rewarding relationships.
My 3 Favorite Communication Techniques:
1. Use ”I” Statements
Using “I” Statements instead of “You” Statements will start a conversation on the right foot.
When approaching a loved one with a problem we are often tempted to start off by saying how that person is involved with the problem. For example, “You left all the dishes in the sink. Do you realize how stressed out I am?!” When you start a conversation off with “you”, the other person will often go in defense mode before you’re even finished speaking. To avoid this, focus on using “I” statements when starting a conversation.
- “I feel _____ when _____ happens”
- “I feel _____ when I hear you say _____”
Why does this work?
Others will be more open to hearing your concerns when they are not feeling criticized by “You” Statements (“You make me feel ____ when you ____”). “I” Statements, on the other hand, allow the other person to hear your concern without feeling attacked or defensive.
2. Adopt a “You and Me vs. The Problem” perspective. (Not You vs. Me)
Healthy relationships include teamwork. This means resolving conflict together, not against one another. When an issue arises, try asking “What can we do together to solve this problem?” instead of “This problem is coming between you and I”.
For example, let’s say your son or daughter is struggling in math class. Homework has become a time of conflict and anger. Instead of fighting one another until someone gives in, try teamwork.
“It’s you and me together vs. trouble understanding math. Let’s tackle this as a team and figure out our first step”.
3. Make Requests, Not Criticisms
As mentioned in technique #1, starting a discussion with criticisms will result in the other person feeling attacked and defensive. So how should we approach our loved ones with a problem?
When speaking to a loved one about an issue, focus on making a request for the future instead of a criticism of past/current behavior.
For example, instead of saying “You shouldn’t have left your clothes on the floor. Now your room is a mess!”, try saying “In the future, please put your clothes in the hamper after wearing them. Your room looks so beautiful when it’s clean!”.
Our loved ones will be more open to our requests when the requests are polite, calm, and positive.
While every relationship requires different communication techniques and unique solutions, these 3 techniques can begin the process of changing nonadaptive or unhelpful communication patterns. Don’t be discouraged if old habits die hard; learning new approaches to our relationships takes time, practice, and patience.
“Communication works for those who work at it” -John Powell
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Lauren is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist who is passionate about creating a safe space for families, couples, and individuals. Lauren provides her clients with skills and tools to change dysfunctional patterns in their lives. Lauren specializes in treatment for anxiety, food allergies, divorce/remarriage, and grief and loss.