From about the age of about two, people start earnestly practicing the skills of persuasion and debate. Of course, our earliest oral arguments are typically sentences of just a single word or two. Hearing the plaintive “Noooooo” or the emphatic, “MINE” issued at full volume by a toddler can be quite jarring in its intensity and passion.
Unfortunately, some of us grow up in homes where we learn that a loud voice and unshaking commitment to a position can win the war. Some children are more than willing to “hold their breath until they turn blue.” Parents fret and give in just to keep the peace. Other children may grow up in homes where their opinions and desires are given no consideration and they take the position of “one down” as adults, not expecting others to acknowledge their wishes.
In a perfect world, we would all learn early that “give and take” communication can be much more productive than trying to unilaterally stake claims without taking others’ feedback into consideration. Diplomacy is a skill that is well worth learning. The need of diplomacy isn’t felt just in international relations; it’s also highly valuable in “domestic relations,” including your own personal nearest and dearest relationships, as well.
One of the most frequently focused on area in couples therapy is communication skills. Regardless of your age or the length of your relationship, being able to engage in effective discussions with your partner will probably result in higher relationship and sexual satisfaction. A study of college-aged couples (Mark & Jozkowski, 2013) indicated that they valued effective communication and its presence heightened their pleasure in the relationship overall.
If you don’t know how to ask for what you need, you are less likely to have your needs met. Luckily, it is never too late to enhance your communication skills and increase your chances of being both heard and understood. Effective communication requires the mastery of active listening; this skill is a standard part of the curriculum in most every helping profession preparation program, but it also is useful for anyone trying to improve their effectiveness in negotiations and relations.
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Mark, K. P., & Jozkowski, K. N. (2013). The mediating role of sexual and nonsexual communications between relationship and sexual satisfaction in a sample of college-age heterosexual couples. Journal of Sex & Marital therapy, 39, 410-427.