Communication is the lifeline for relationships. It is the way we understand one another, ask for what we need and want, and express how we feel. We resolve issues, generate understanding and create intimacy through our words. And yes, our words matter. How we communicate can make the difference between a conversation resulting in connection or conflict.
Here is one communication strategy that will help you diffuse defensiveness and move the conversation toward resolution and intimacy.
When you find yourself disappointed or judging your partners’ actions (or inactions), talk about you instead of focusing on your partner and what they did or didn’t do. Speak from the “I”.
For example, instead of saying,
“Why would you park in an isolated parking structure rather than on the street where there are restaurants and people around? This is just stupid!”
“I worry about your safety and feel anxious when you park in places that I believe are unsafe. And when I’m not with you, I feel frustrated that I’m not able to ensure your safety.”
Feel the difference? When you speak from the “I”, you let your partner know more about who you are, how you feel and what’s important to you. It is less about judging or shaming the other person. In doing so, your partner will feel less defensive and more empathic toward you. Generous listening is easier. Responding with understanding and compassion increases. The ability and desire to find a solution that makes both parties comfortable increases. You set the stage for a win-win.
Let me give you another example.
Instead of saying,
“That idea is just crazy. You will never be able to get all that done and still be on time for my family get together.”
“I’m worried that you will not be able to get to my family’s celebration on time. It is a big deal to be on time in my family and when I am unable to control this or feel like you may make us late, I get very anxious.”
Picture yourself on the receiving end of both examples and see which one you would rather hear. How differently do you react based on hearing the different versions? When we speak from the “I” we communicate something about ourselves. We don’t assume or judge another. We create the space to receive support and understanding. We communicate in a way that leads to cooperation and problem-solving as opposed to power struggles and defensiveness.
Take some time this week to practice speaking from the “I” and let me know how it goes.
P.S. If you or someone you know is struggling with communication within their relationships, don’t hesitate to contact me. I'm here to help. I provide personalized counseling and coaching. Take advantage of the opportunity to receive the support and guidance you deserve. You don’t need to wait. You can begin the process today.
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