Emotional Fitness

Harness the power of emotion to deepen your love with your partner, become more successful at work, and more

Commitment, Communication and Connection

Our clarity with one another has to get better

How many times have you and a loved one felt like neither of you got what the other was saying? It is almost as though the two of you were having different discussions.  It amazes me how differently two people can perceive a conversation, but the truth is that this is a natural thing and we all do it. 

When you are having a conversation, there are three distinct dialogues going on at the same time: yours, the other person’s, and the one that is really occurring. We don't correctly hear what someone else is saying to us because we have our own listening filters that sometimes edit out what the other person is saying. 

Perhaps we may have some strong emotions in play or may be busy thinking about our response. Other times we can be distracted by outside influences, like the television, or internal ones, like our previous histories, insecurities, or even how we are feeling physically.

All of these things combined can create the perfect conversational storm: a place where nobody feels heard and both parties end up floundering in a sea of misunderstanding.

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If you'd like to still the waters and have calm communication, start by realizing that you may not be as clear as your partner needs you to be. Yes, I know that he or she has equal responsibility here, but someone has to get things started, so why not seize the opportunity and open up the topic 

Begin the process by telling your partner that you want this to be a win for the relationship. Then speak your feelings, but stop after each point and ask your partner what he or she heard. It may seem a bit cumbersome, but by going slowly through an emotional process, you eliminate misinterpretation. 

As your partner responds, let him or her know that you are hearing what’s being said. Extend the extra effort to make sure that neither of you filters out important points or blocks feelings. This kind of open communication will make for smooth sailing in your relationship.

If your partner doesn't want to participate, give him or her some time, and just use the techniques yourself. Yes, it will be awkward, but most people learn best through example. There are many couples whose communication breaks down on a regular basis, and somehow they muddle through, at least temporally. If your partner continues to stonewall you, professional help is usually just a phone call away.

Learning how to identify your filters and working to keep your conversations as clear as possible will never fail you. No matter how difficult the subject matter, dedicate yourselves to talking it through. At the very least, you will give your relationship the best tool possible: good communication.

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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