Do these statements sound familiar?
What can I do to communicate better with my spouse?
All we do is argue! My partner does not understand me.
How do I explain what I am trying to say so that my partner does not get angry?
We aren’t on the same page!
Then you have come to the right place!
I have seen many couples who say or feel the same way about their own communication. Communication can be easy, but, just like anything else, it takes practice. If you want help with communication, keep reading. Also, check out my workbook: Couples Communication Workbook
What is Communication?
Communication is, at is simplest form, the transmission of information from one person to another. People were created to inform each other of anything and everything the best way they can. There are so many different ways to communicate, or transmit information.
Types of Communication
- Verbal Communication
- Written Communication
- Digital Communication
- Nonverbal Communication
- Sign Language
- And More..
Assertive communication is the best style of communication. When a person communicates assertively they are calm and respectful and communication their needs and desires without anger, intimidation, manipulation or vengeance. They communication without letting their emotions take over. They are able to listen and understand another person without getting defensive. They do not yell, curse or attack the other person. They are goal oriented and open to different perspectives. Above all, they take responsibility for themselves and do not blame others.
Aggressive communication is more like bullying. Yelling, cursing, blaming, attacking, hostility and intimidation are usually involved. Defensiveness is a primary trait of an aggressive communicator which drives these negative communication tactics. The aggressive communicator needs to be right. They tend to not consider other people’s feelings or thoughts.
Submissive communication is about not making other people upset. A phrase usually referring to submissive communicators is “people pleaser.” People who communicate in this way tend to hold back. They do not talk about their feelings, their needs, their wants or their desires. They don’t want to stir up problems and so they stuff their feelings. A submissive person acts as though other people are more important. They may also believe that other people deserve more. Submissive communicators may act as if other’s rights are more important than theirs. They tend to be quiet and put other’s needs ahead of their own.
Passive-aggressive communication is when a person may not say anything directly, but tend to act out aggressively in an indirect manner. They may do something after the fact that demonstrates their frustration or anger. They might say something sarcastic. They might decide to not talk to the person they are upset at. They might complain to others about what they are upset about. They tend to be more gossipy and two-faced (talking behind a person’s back after having a pleasant conversation with them).
Manipulative communication is a method of communicating that attempts to control the person or the dynamics of the situation. Someone who manipulates may scheme or plan in their minds. They may be very influential through their speech. They tend to be calculating. They may make others feel sorry after the conversation.
Why is Communication Important?
Communication is important to help increase understanding, knowledge and connection. It would be incredibly difficult to do anything in this world without the ability to communicate. People can communicate on a continuum between very simple and very complex. Can you think of how life might be different if a person could not communicate?
How is Communication Important in Marriage?
There are many resources about communication in relationships. A marriage is held together by effective communication. Thus, it is important to know how to communicate appropriately and effectively to have a healthy marriage. So, what are the keys to effective communication in marriage? I will try to sum up what I have found to be the key factors from all the articles and books that I have read.
Communication starts with connection
Intimacy and connection are important for a person to have the desire to communicate with another person on a deeper level. If you don’t have a connection, communication is more surface level. Without intimacy, spousal communication becomes acquaintance communication rather than marital communication. Connection equals trust and without trust, deeper communication is impossible.
Put your spouse first, but be assertive
Being self-less instead of selfish helps with empathy. Putting someone else’s needs before your own is helpful in allowing for more open communication. You will be less worried about getting your point across and more interested in truth and the bigger picture. You will be open to other perspectives and thus be more able to listen to others’ points of view. Being open and listening helps you respond better to your partner, and how you respond is very important because the person responding usually dictates the tone of the conversation. What that means is that if someone attempts to communicate something to you, since you have the opportunity to respond, your response will normally effect whether the communication is positive or negative.
Take responsibility for your part in the relationship problems
I have had many couples come to see me and almost every time their language is filled with the words, “you,” “he,” “she,” “her,” and “him.” When a person uses these pronouns they are generally thinking about what others are doing wrong and not taking responsibility for themselves.
Use communication to be more positive than negative
Dr. John Gottman uses the 5:1 ratio. He has demonstrated that for every negative interaction their needs to be 5 positive interactions to help maintain a healthy relationship. Have you ever heard your spouse say, “You are always negative.” Well, maybe you are unaware of how you communicate, but your tone, words or body language may be presenting a negative vibe. A good exercise to do regularly to improve your positive communication is to assess your body language, words and tone for negativity and correct any negativity you notice in your communication.
Use “I” statements
Most people like the word “you.” It tends to relieve stress, at least at first. However, when the other person feels blame due to the word you just used, that stress might be short lived. A better method to not attack or point the finger at someone is to use “I” statements. It is kind of like taking responsibility for feelings and thoughts that I own. Try practicing this form of statement:
“I feel ______, because __________, and I would like __________.”
Keep it simple and stay on the current subject
Have you ever tried to talk to someone and you tend to never get to the point, but see yourself circling around the point? I do that! My wife tends to say to me, “You are rambling.” I don’t like when she says that, and I have, unfortunately, become offended at times. I usually just tell her, “I am just trying to give you all the details because you want understand if you don’t have all the details.” The truth of the matter is, I like to hear myself talk. I have found that if I keep my statements short, precise and simple, our conversation flows better and my wife appears to listen to me better.
Also, staying on the current subject helps your partner not get lost in the conversation and allows them the ability to follow what you are saying without as many misunderstandings.
Ask for clarification and summarize (ie, listen)
Listening is a major part of effective communication. One way to listen better is to truly try to hear what the other person is saying. This can be done with the idea of asking for clarification when you don’t understand a point and summarizing or rephrasing what the person said and asking for clarification that this was what the other person meant.
For example: If my wife says, “I am frustrated that you are so long winded and I would like you to get to the point.” I can rephrase that, out loud, by saying, “I hear you saying that it frustrates you when I ramble and give you all the details and it would help you understand what I am saying if I would be simple and more precise in my wording.
It is important to use clarification statements like, “I hear you saying…” or “You’re saying…” or “What I heard you say was…”
At first it may feel awkward, but after some practice, using this form of listening will become second nature and will improve your ability to communicate effectively.
What NOT to do in communication
Don’t use words, such as, “Always,” “Never,” “Should,” “Must,” or “Have to”
Don’t yell, curse, blame, or call each other names
Don’t bring up past problems or hurts
Other resources on the web:
5 Tips to not “Fighting” in Marriage Communication
How Fight or Flight Affects Marriage Communication
Practice Listening to Improve Your Marriage While Quarantined
5 Steps to Becoming a Better Listener in Marriage
Four Tips to Listening to Your Spouse
Communication Do’s and Don’t’s
Connection or Communication: 5 easy ways to improve communication in marriage
5 Common Pitfalls and Pointers for Couples
5 Communication Tools that Saved My Marriage
Happy Couples: How to keep your relationship healthy
Are you struggling with communicating in your relationships? Tired of all the arguing? …Check out this workbook on learning the basics to healthy couple communication.
Brandon Coussens, LMFT
- Address3540 Wheeler Rd., Ste. 110
Augusta, GA 30909