Communication, Conflict Resolution and Couples Therapy Basics.
Without honesty improving communication is impossible. From here all things can begin. A foundation of honesty shows respect and a willingness to move forward. It also feeds directly in to the points below and becomes the foundation for any relationship.
Listening is a skill that goes so much deeper than just ‘not speaking’. To listen to another person to truly understand what they are saying, not what you think they are saying, will immediately impact your communication and often even how you view that other person.
Steven Covey wrote in his book ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Well over 50% of arguments occur because people have different beliefs about what they are arguing, or misunderstand the other person’s point of view. When we truly listen to what someone is saying, most of those arguments can dissolve themselves.
Special Note: Asking for clarification, or restating what has been said, are excellent ways to acknowledge that you’re listening and that they are being heard.
3. Emotional Control
Making a conscious decision not to get upset or react unfavourably, is critical to prevent conversations degenerating in to un-resourceful arguments. Emotional control also demonstrates emotional intelligence and the emotional maturity to be capable of an adult conversation.
4. Nothing To Defend
In mature conversations, there is nothing to defend. Even if you disagree with, or don’t like what they are saying. The other person’s experience of what they are sharing is valid for them. Acknowledge that is how they experienced it, even if you choose to say that was not your experience.
Be prepared to be wrong. It’s ok. Nobody is perfect and accepting your mistakes will free you from them. Holding them close or hidden will keep them alive and likely aggravate everyone.
Take responsibility for the communication and where it currently stands. Be first to apologise. Saying “Sorry” opens up closed communication and creates a safe space for the other person to do the same (if they are ready or feel they need to). Even if it’s “Sorry that you experienced what I said as criticism, that was not my intention.” They may then ask what your intention was and sharing good intentions will now bring you closer together.
Share your feelings. Some people can find this confronting and for some it may even feel unnatural at first. What’s important to recognise however, is that when we realise how our actions or communication has impacted another person, we are much more capable and interested in changing our behaviours.
If someone has said something that upset you, don’t repeat the cycle by throwing it back at them, let them know that what they did or said upset you and how it made you feel. Allow them to think about it and give them the time and space to choose how to respond. As our communication matures, so does the speed and quality of our responses. Be ok to talk about how you experienced their response too – good, bad or other. “Thank you, I appreciate you taking responsibility, it restores my confidence in us.” or “I’m not sure if you understand how you made me feel, your response has left me feeling empty.” or “Thank you for taking the time to think about what I said and I appreciate you saying that, it might just be something I need time to adjust to.”
We are all individuals with our own set of circumstances, that have moulded our beliefs. Disagreeing with another’s point of view, opinion or belief is healthy, attacking them verbally or emotionally is not. Behaviour such as name calling, blaming, finger pointing, sarcasm, bullying, etc., are all negative behavioural/communication patterns that will erode any chance of healthy communication.
Having respect for another’s point of view or opinion is critical, even if you don’t agree with it. Argue the point, not the person.
Forgiveness is the bonus. Forgiveness is not just for others, it is for ourselves. When we forgive another person, it lightens us from the burden they laid upon us when they ‘wronged’ us.
Most people suffer inside for the things they have done wrong and this often leads to repeated behaviour in an unfortunate attempt to prove what they did was not wrong in some way. Acknowledge that it was wrong but forgive them for their mistake and encourage them to make better decisions.
Hanging on to blame is the victim mentality. It’s unhealthy and will sap you of life. Forgive people who have wronged you and move on with your life, it’s too short not to live free of other people’s burdens.
Enlighten your life and inspire others with your mature communication.