Improve Your Communication With Your Beloved

Many couples come to therapy to improve their communication difficulties. They state that they are able to converse, but do not feel heard, understood, supported, encouraged, or empathized with by their mate often enough. To this end, I created a list of twelve recommendations to help pairs reduce the frequency of verbal dissonance and enhance healthier verbal exchanges and greater emotional connection with each other:

  1. Do not start a sentence with a “you”, unless it is followed by a compliment. “You are wonderful” is an encouraged phrase.
  2. Avoid using “always” and “never” about human behavior. It is incorrect and inflammatory.
  3. Refrain from starting a sentence with a verb, such as: “stop”, “come”, “go”, “do”, “don’t”, “leave”, “come here”, etc. This is commanding.
  4. Ask, don’t tell. Say, “Would you like to go for a walk?” rather than, “We are going for a walk.”
  5. Do not ask “why” when the answer does not have a factual response. “Why are you this way?” is unanswerable and demeaning. Use “what” instead. “What made you choose this option?”
  6. Do not use the word “but” in the middle of a sentence, it invalidates the first half of the sentence. “I love you, but I can’t stand what you do.” should be replaced with “I love you, and I don’t like what you do.” Both parts of the second sentence are valid.
  7. Never criticize your partner. Convey your dissatisfaction with his/her behavior. “You can’t even remember something so simple?” is shaming. “I am disappointed when what I ask for is not remembered,” is respectful.
  8. Abstain from messages that indirectly imply a threat to the relationship, such as “I am fed up.” “I don’t know how long I can take this.” “I have had enough.” “This may not work.” “I can’t handle this any longer.” “Maybe you need to be with someone else who would not upset you so much.” “If I don’t get it here, I can get it elsewhere.” “This is a deal breaker.” All these messages create a threat and cause greater emotional distance between partners.
  9. Make suggestions gently, allowing the partner to make choices. Instead of saying, “Just do this.”, say, “I would like to encourage you to consider this option.” That allows the partner to consider or not, to accept or reject the option and to feel autonomous.
  10. Avoid complaining about what you do not receive. Instead, ask clearly for what you need. “It would really please me if you would play with the children while I make dinner.” Once it is done, remember your promise to be pleased and state your appreciation.
  11. Use your “soft voice” (just above a whisper). This is more likely to be perceived as expressing kind words. It also invites careful listening by the partner.
  12. Say it the way you would want to hear it if it were said to you. Pause before you reply so you can respond lovingly.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply