1) Learn to speak “for” not “from” your feelings:

What does this mean, you might ask? It might look something like this: Instead of saying “I can’t believe you made me go to Costco by myself in the middle of a pandemic,” you might say “It was pretty lonely standing in that line at Costco waiting to get in, and I found myself feeling really afraid, and you weren’t there for me, instead you were still at home sleeping. When things like that happen, I feel really alone.” See the difference?

Simple, but not easy. Speaking for your feelings rather than from them, makes it easier for your partner to hear and respond from a non-defensive place.

2) Inside out- from the internal thought or belief comes the external behavior:

What do I mean by that? I mean that what we are feeling inside tends to dictate how we behave with others. The more we are aware of what we are feeling inside, the better we are able to get our needs met in our relationships. One of the problems is that we don’t always know what is going on inside us.

3) Vulnerability builds trust:

Speaking up for yourself builds trust in your partner, but it is important to try to speak for the hurt, the stuck place, the fear rather than from the blame, the anger, or the frustration.

4) Listen:

Here is another one that is simple to say, and oh so much harder to do. The hardest part of communication is the listening, not the talking. In general, humans are able to explain to others what the other has done to hurt or anger them, but it is much, much harder to listen to how we have hurt or angered a loved one. It is painful to hear the we have hurt someone we love, and we tend to defend from that pain by either explaining, rationalizing, or going quickly to a way to solve the problem of the hurt. We tend to feel the pain of our loved one, and move quickly both internally and externally to defend ourselves or soothe it away which can feel unintentionally invalidating to our partner, thus unintentionally adding fuel to the conflict.

5) Give your partner the benefit of the doubt:

This one might be the hardest one of all. Chances are your partner is still the same person underneath that they were a couple of days ago- they still love you and you still love them. They aren’t really your enemy, or even the sole source of your pain, it is likely that your hurt and anger are creating that lens. Ask yourself: what is the most generous assumption I can make about my partner’s behavior? What is he/she struggling with today? Is there something going on here either from our shared past or from my past that is making this feel like salt on a wound? Is any part of this shared problem mine?

Struggling with communication with your partner or family member? We can help. Contact us at 865-238-5696 or request an appointment.