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Negative communication
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Three Negative Communication

It's amazing, but if you really look closely you'll discover that people are extremely private creatures. For all that we seem to want to boast and have ourselves become acclaimed, we still tend to bottle our truest and deepest feelings inside. And, for what? Most often to protect our helpless hearts from heaps of pain, anger, ridicule, despair or ultimately heartbreak. But, what if keeping our inner selves hidden is what causes the pain to appear in the first place? Have you ever considered that preventing the people close to us from really getting to know us is what's keeping them from giving their all as well?

Every person has an inner need to be heard and understood. The people who understand us best are the ones we consider our closest friends, and the type of people we tend to gravitate towards. So, it would make sense that if we took the time to understand our partners and visa versa we could create a relationship of true closeness and intimacy. We wouldn't feel the need to hide our real feelings, or keep our deepest dreams and desires hidden because we would feel safe in the knowledge that our partner would understand.

For a lot of couples this may seem like an impossible task. If you've been together for any number of years, and communication is still your number one problem, it is definitely worth the risk to try and create a better verbal environment.

To begin on the road to verbal bliss you'll need to check all emotional baggage at the door. It can't be allowed on this trip. What kind of emotional baggage? Well, first you need to strip away any "shoulds or should nots," or other beliefs. These are the statements that you hear cycling in your head when you're partner is doing or saying something such as: "He should know what I mean," "If he really loves me he should understand," or "She should know better than to do that." There aren't any prerequisite behaviors that you or your partner should have, other than a willingness to understand and listen. Everything else is just a made up excuse to get away with not using real communication.

Next, you need to reenter the relationship with an open and trusting heart. You need to be able to begin these tasks without harboring negative or hurtful feelings. What has been done is in the past, and this is a step towards creating a new future. If you let the past in, you're only crippling your future.

The first step towards improvement is to examine your current communication patterns. Below are a few questions to ask, and share your thoughts with, each other. This should be done without ANY accusations. It is a time for revelation and pattern changes. In fact, you may not want to do all the questions at one time. The best way to complete this "mini-course" is to handle one pattern each week. Below are the first three weeks of this mini-course to get you started. We will be including the next three patterns next week, so be sure to bookmark this page!

Remember, this is an exercise for a couple to complete. You can gain benefit doing it on your own, but you won't experience the ultimate reward of true intimacy in the same way as doing this together.


Negative Pattern #1: Are you belittling your partner's communication? Check the tone of voice you are using. This is the most common area of misunderstanding and invalidation. The surprising fact is that most of the time you won't even realize you are doing it. Sugar goes down a lot easier than spice. Make it a special point to practice kindness in the way you say things, even if you don't agree. To put this into practice take notice of how you react when you disagree with something your partner says or does. Does your vocal tone change dramatically? Do you act incredulous or as if your partner has grown horns and sprouted whiskers? Do you frequently find yourself saying no or other negative comments? These are not actions that promote a willingness to talk and grow together. It just makes your partner feel stupid and as if you feel you are better then them. If you do nothing else to improve your love life, just make sure to take care in the way you speak to each other.

Talking It Over: How has this pattern made it more difficult to talk to your partner? Give each other three different examples of ways they could say things better towards you.

Assignment: Get caught using the examples your partner has given at least 5 times this week. When you notice your partner making an effort to improve their communication tactics, reward them with an "I love you," a kiss, or other small acknowledgment.

Practical Usage: When in a disagreement, use phrases such as: "I understand what you're trying to say, but I disagree because…," "Your viewpoint is important, but I still find that I like it better like this because…" Try to make sure your partner knows you do not desire to invalidate what they are saying; you just disagree.


Negative Pattern #2: Are you always trying to prove a point in a discussion? Do your conversations seem to always have an ulterior motive? You aren't in this relationship to prove how worthy you are, or to see how well you can outwit your partner. An open debate is healthy, but not if every conversation seems to be about you becoming the winner. When you spend all your energy seeing what statements your partner makes that you can shoot down, or devising ways to get your point across, you miss the entire point of communication. It not only makes your partner want to withdraw from talking with you in the future, you also ruin the chance of really getting to know your partner's internal feelings about an issue and why they believe what they believe. You may feel like you're the winner of a conversation, but it's only a false victory. In the end, you become the loser because you'll have lost that someone who was willing to help you find your real victories.

Talking It Over: Have you ever felt your partner had a hidden agenda when talking with you? Give two examples of this negative pattern and two different suggestions for ways you would have liked them to handle it better.

Assignment: Instead of looking for ways to debate with your partner, search for the real meaning of what your partner is trying to say. Let your partner talk to you about an important issue or problem they are having for 15 minutes without you interrupting or saying anything in return. When they are done, see if you can reinterpret their root feelings about the problem, find any viewpoints your partner may have missed and help give some solutions. Then switch and let your partner do the same for you. Practice this at least twice a week.

Practical Usage: Your partner comes home from work a little irritable. Make the time to give them a supportive hug and invite them to sit and talk about their day. Do not try to steer the conversation in any direction. They may not feel like talking about why they are irritable. That is okay! All you need to do is show that you care and understand that they aren't feeling up to par, and that you are there if they should need you.


Negative Pattern #3: Do you maintain eye contact with each other when you talk? Eye contact lets the other person know that you value and respect what they are saying, EVEN if you disagree. Looking away, or even walking away, while your partner is talking is non-verbally communicating your lack of concern about their viewpoint in a situation. This trait is often used as a control mechanism. If you avoid the conversation or give the "silent treatment" then your partner may feel sorry for you or even just give in. Take an honest, inward look and see if this is your intent when using this technique. If you are, you're not reaping the real rewards true communication can bring. All you are doing is getting your own way. In the end your partner will just end up resenting you for not allowing them a chance to express their feelings

Talking It Over: Do you feel your partner practices good eye contact and body language with you? Why or why not? Is the silent treatment a communication technique you use? Give each other two examples of disagreements that could have been handled better. Offer your own solutions for ways you can both handle these types of disagreements better in the future.

Assignment: Practice talking while looking at each other. Make it a point to keep eye contact for as long as possible. When you notice your partner doing this with you, make sure to thank them for taking your communication seriously.

Practical Usage: When your partner comes to you to talk about their day or other news they'd like to share, be an active listener. Don't do chores around the house, handle the kid's homework, or take phone calls. Actually sit for the few minutes your partner needs, and listen to what they are saying intently, paying close attention to your eye contact and body language.


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