Have you ever felt like you’re saying the same things over and over again and what you’re saying just isn’t getting through to your partner? or maybe they’re telling you that “you promised me last time that you wouldn’t do X, but you always do”.

That was me, being told over and over, that I keep making the same mistakes, but in my mind.. “it’s just the way I am”, or I would feel justified in my action “but you keep doing this thing that makes me do act this way! what do you expect?!”.

I wasn’t listening, I felt like I wasn’t being heard either. My partner clearly expressed her emotions, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t hear them over my own thoughts and rebuttals and I wasn’t feeling heard because I wasn’t taking the time to think about my problems or how I truly felt and took even less time to communicate them clearly.

Communication is the bedrock of a healthy relationship, whether at home, at work or with friends or with anyone you come across in your life. If you can communicate well, you can solve your problems or they’ll continue to erode your relationships time and time again as I learned.

So, how can we communicate more effectively? As Epictetus once said “we have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak” 

Start by listening first and before you respond really think about what is being communicated to you, sometimes it won’t always be clear, and sometimes your partner will also be a poor communicator but if you can make a conscious effort to listen and understand.. well half the job is done.

Conscious listening or active listening is the process of listening attentively, trying to understand and reflect on what is being said and remembering it. If we all did this a little more, we would have a lot less conflict in our lives. Ask yourself, what is my partner trying to communicate to me? What can I learn from this? How do I contribute to the problem? Is it within my control?

One of the hardest things for us to do, myself included is to admit your part in the problem and acknowledge that it takes two to tango and understand why you’re behaving a certain way. But this is the first step forward, this will allow us to see more clearly the issues at hand. Then we can learn to trace back, through time, through arguments, through misunderstandings the root cause of the issue.

Action steps:

  1. if your partner is communicating a problem, reiterate the problem back to them. This will show them that you’re present and listening. It will also give you pause, time enough to think rather than immediately react.
  2. Ask yourself, what is my partner trying to communicate to me?
  3. How do I contribute to the problem?
  4. Is it within my control?
  5. What can I do to change this?
  6. Acknowledge your issues and the problem
  7. Make a plan to address the problem and involve your partner. Remember, it’s both of you vs. the problem, not each other.

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