Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Is it just me? Or...

Anyone else out there feel the joys and the pains of being in a relationship? It can be the best thing that ever happened to us, and yet it can also provide some of the biggest challenges in our lives. However, I would like to see those challenges become bridges to greater health, understanding and connecting--rather than become road blocks leading to breakdown of harmony and functioning. There is a lot of good stuff in the below article. Not all of it will apply to every relationship, as we are all so very different in the ways we relate. But there may just be some helpful pieces that can be taken from the information and used to enhance your relational world. So, take what is useful and leave the rest.

Improving Communication Skills in Relationships

Create a context in which your partner can feel free to share feelings, thoughts, fantasies, hurts, and complaints, without the fear that you will condemn, attack, lecture, or simply withdraw. We tend to be as critical of others as we are of ourselves.

  • Know that you have a right to your feelings as others have a right to theirs.
  • Working on a relationship always begins with working on ourselves.
  • Try not to blame all of the relational problems on your partner.
  • Remember, you only have control over changing yourself, not others, and the temptation is to blame others for our problems.
  • Don't rush yourself into sharing emotionally painful information.
  • Sometimes it's best to write out your concerns in private then share them with your partner at a later time.

The Sentence-Completion method can help. Set aside a block of time when you and your partner can talk and after obtaining agreement, do the following exercise. Practice now with your partner...

Both of you should take turns completing the following statements on communication:

  • Communication to me means ...
  • The hard thing about intimate communication is ...
  • Sometimes I withdraw from communication when ...

It is also beneficial to complete the following statements on self-disclosure:

  • I am a person who ...
  • One of the things I'd like people to know about me is ...
  • When I try to talk about things that are important to me...
  • When I try to express intimate feelings ...
  • If I were more open about expressing my feelings and opinions ...
  • When people try to talk with me, sometimes I ...

Further it is useful to explore obstacles to communication by completing these statements:

  • If I weren't concerned about the listener's response ...
  • Sometimes I become blocked when ...
  • One of the ways I sometimes make it difficult for people to talk to me is ...

Miscommunication - Root Cause of Problems?

  • People with opposing ideas can soon stir up arguments and fights. It's that situation when one thinks he has the right concept while the other one also believes he has the proper notion. Both of them may try to outsmart each other until one claims victory.
  • There's a conflict with their beliefs. No two people are exactly alike. We are totally unique; not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
  • There will be many times when your opinion will not correspond with that of another. So how can we prevent this kind of conflict from occurring? Communication is the key to overcoming doubts and misunderstandings. You should let other people know what's in your mind. Don't keep them guessing.

Why would people prefer to keep their complaints and criticisms to themselves? What's holding them back? It's because they do not want to be rejected. Most, people, if not all, would like to be accepted and to be perceived as likeable in the eyes of others.

So can you get your message across without hurting the other person's feelings? One thing you can do is to substitute negative statements with more positive ones.

  • Instead of saying, "You don't understand," say "Let me explain."
  • Instead of remarking, "You're wrong," say "Permit me to clarify."
  • Instead of stating, "You failed to say..." just mention, "Perhaps this was not stated..."

There are certain words that affect a person more negatively in comparison with other words that have the same meaning. Nothing is more pleasing than hearing someone else say that you are right. In this case, be prepared to let other people know that you respect their opinions.

You may add your comments at the end, but acknowledge them first. Say something like:

  • "You're right, although..."
  • "Great suggestion, however..."
  • "I agree with your opinion, but have you also considered..."
  • "I would feel the same way if I were you, although..."
  • "I understand your situation. From my point of view..."

Communication is a gift. Use it wisely for everyone's advantage.

Think first before you speak. Many relationships have been ruined by the wrong choice of words. Some people voice out anything that comes to their mind, without first filtering the good words from the bad ones. This might result in misunderstandings and arguments, which could have easily been prevented if we had spoken in a way that was neutral and non-offensive, even empathic.

Words are very powerful indeed. Use them responsibly for the benefit of all.

Personal relationships deteriorate when what is needed and wanted is not expressed; the resulting frustrations build up and result in increasing anxiety and upset. This is particularly likely to occur with sexual relationships, when problems or disagreements about sexual issues are not discussed openly and honestly. If this is the case in your personal life, then here's how to go about improving matters.

Note: this is an exercise to do with your sexual partner. Of course, many of the principles apply equally to any sensitive issue.

Break The Ice

  • Talk with your partner about why it's hard to talk about sex.
  • Share earlier experiences with talking about sex.
  • Gradually move toward discussing more personal feelings and concerns.
  • Read and discuss material if it seems easier than spontaneously talking about personal matters.
  • Share your sexual histories including such areas as sex education, first experience with sexuality, etc.

Listen and Provide Feedback

  • Active listening helps to show you are interested in what your partner is saying. Ask questions and make brief comments to help increase your understanding of what is being said.
  • Maintaining eye contact displays caring and validation.
  • Reflect back to your partner what you have understood them to say. This conveys active listening and an interest in understanding.
  • Be supportive of your partner's efforts to communicate.
  • A statement of appreciation or thanks can go a long way to strengthening a relationship.
  • Express "unconditional positive regard." Convey the sense that you will value your partner regardless of what they communicate to you.

Discover Your Partner's Needs

  • Ask open-ended, clarifying and extending questions to gain the most information about your companion's desires. Your partner will probably appreciate your concern.
  • If the subject you are interested in is particularly sensitive, try self- disclosing first. Self-disclosure will model trust and a willingness to take risks.
  • Compare notes on sexual preferences. This can be an effective way of learning about what does and doesn't stimulate your partner, and is certainly more efficient than trial and error.
  • Give your partner permission to talk about his/her feelings.
  • Learn To Make Requests
  • Take responsibility for your own pleasure. Realize that people are not mind readers and genuinely communicate your needs and desires.
  • Make requests specific. This will increase the chance that your wishes will be understood and granted.
  • Use "I" language. Although it is sometimes difficult to personalize requests, it is often the best means of getting a positive response.

Delivering Criticism

  • Be aware of your motivation. Is it based on a constructive desire to make your relationship better?
  • Choose the right time and place. Try not to be critical when anger is at it's peak. Give your partner a choice about when he/she would like to talk. Be aware of your partner's needs when choosing a location.
  • Temper criticism with praise. This will reduce the likelihood of your partner responding in a defensive or angry fashion, and increase the chances of him/her accepting what you have to say.
  • Nurture small steps toward change. Be generous with your support and encouragement of change. Realize that it is normal to revert back to comfortable patterns which have developed over time, so don't be too discouraged if there is some backsliding.
  • Avoid "why" questions. They tend to be perceived as attacking and hurtful. Better to say 'I don't understand...'
  • Express your anger appropriately. Direct your anger toward your partner's behaviors, not his/her character. Don't forget to remind your partner that you appreciate them as a person. Take responsibility for your anger.
  • Your partner cannot make you feel angry; you choose to respond that way.