I’ve tried the communication model, but it seems no matter what I do, we still end up arguing. It just doesn’t seem to be working. Any serious discussions just keep breaking down.
When I bring up a point of disagreement or conflict, it is interpreted as a criticism and is countered with a negative jab at me. I am reminded of when I did this and that and pretty soon we don’t even remember what the current problem is because we are too busy trying to resolve past issues that are no longer relevant.
Why isn’t all this communication stuff working?
Like any skill we develop, communication is an aptitude that needs to be practiced over time to gain competence.
And like any habit we put in place, it is easy to get discouraged and we go back to old ways of doing things.
How do we stay on topic?
Too often we come to our interactions with a hidden agenda – something that isn’t always clear to us at the time. We want the other person to listen and understand our point of view; we don’t necessarily want to hear theirs.
We don’t come to resolve problems, but to convince the other person that they need to change what they are doing or not doing.
What is your honest motive when you are in a sensitive discussion? What do you really want to have happen? If your secret agenda is to find fault, the discussion will soon break down. If, on the other hand, it is to genuinely work together to find solutions, your listening, validating and clarification skills will improve. Highly charged emotional differences and problems are never easy to resolve. It takes both people to come with the desire to work together on them.
If communication continues to break down, ask yourself
- What do I want the outcome to be of our conversation?
- Have we adequately defined the problem?
- Am I honestly trying to understand the other person’s point of view?
- Is revenge or pay back more a part of this discussion than I want to acknowledge?
- Am I willing to negotiate and compromise?
- What am I prepared to do to improve both our conversations and our relationship?
Anything that is worthwhile in life requires effort and work. Anything of value is worth working to preserve. The benefits are so rewarding.
Think about a beautiful garden that you enjoy. In order for you to continue that enjoyment it requires diligence in pulling weeds, trimming the bushes and digging the soil. A beautiful home will soon become a scene of chaos unless we maintain it.
A promising relationship will soon die if we do not work to keep it vital and flourishing. Without maintenance, it too will quickly dissolve into chaos.
Here are some ways to maintain and help your relationship grow
- Take time to do things together that are pleasant for both of you.
- Have discussions about positive occurrences and mutual interests.
- Reframe past negative experiences into more positive ones
- Look for and express your appreciation of the other. Compliment them for the things you appreciate and admire often and spontaneously
- Eliminate labeling, vilifying and stereotyping the other person
- Refuse to play the blame game or constantly find fault. Stay on task and speak to the issues and not personal global faults
- Try to see where the other person is coming from. It’s okay to disagree and still respect the other’s point of view.
- Speak honestly about your needs. Share them without making the other person feel responsible. Work together to meet relationship needs and goals.
- Respect the others viewpoint and position. Let them know that it is as valid as yours and that you both can be right.
Relationships take a commitment and a willingness to give and take – a desire to know each other better. It is where we realize the joys of intimacy, emotional connection and deep friendship. Within a safe place of mutual respect and support, we can be ourselves and share the challenges and struggles we face. Believe the best of yourself and the other.
Relationships take effort and work. If this relationship is significant, then it is important for you to explore what it will take to make it grow and thrive. Then start doing those things.
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