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Listen With Your Heart – 10 Tips For Couple Communication

Dr. Linda Miles

When you discuss issues with your partner, be genuine and be present. Don’t let your mind wander. Maintain eye contact. If you are upset, empathize with how she or he feels. Use “soft eyes” to convey the idea that you’re on their side. If either of you tends to change the subject rather then deal with it, create an agenda of issues to discuss as a reminder to stay on task. If you disagree with that your partner is saying, wait your turn. Don’t interrupt. When it’s your turn, instead of saying,”You’re wrong,” try, “I see things differently.”

If your partner is not forthcoming about an issue, ask what’s wrong in a way that doesn’t invite a yes or no answer. Ask, for example, “What’s troubling you?” rather than, “Is something troubling you?” When a problem has been identified, don’t offer a solution. Ask, “What will you have to do to fix it?” or, “What can you do about it?” or, “What’s in store for you?” If you partner responds, “I don’t know,” ask, “What information will you require in order to know? or, “What do you know about it so far? or, “How can you find out more about it?” Other helpful questions might be; “How can I help you?” or, “If the same thing happened again, what would you do?” or, “If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?”

Tried and True Communication Techniques:

  1. Say it again, Sam. Tell your partner what you heard. For example,” You think I won’t like who you really are, is that it?”
  2. Clear the air. Make sure you understand the meaning your partner attaches to certain words. For example, “When you said ‘We bumped heads,’ did you mean we argued or were stymied?”
  3. Tie it up. You may need to help your partner draw a conclusion. For example,”It sounds like you care about me but are afraid to show it because you think I don’t care as much about you.”
  4. Check it out. Verify that your assumptions are correct. For example, “Am I right in thinking that’s how you feel?”
  5. Plain and simple. Use concrete terms rather than vogue concepts. For example, “When you say feel bad, is it or depression or something else that you’re feeling?”
  6. Recapitulate. Before ending a discussion, summarize what your partner has told you. For example, “Let’s see if I have right. You’ve been withdrawn and angry because you think I’m going to leave you the way your father left your mother when you were six years old.”
  7. Silence is golden. It’s better to remain silent than to muddy the water by asking too many questions. Allow space for you and your partner to think things over.
  8. Explore alternatives. Instead of offering a solution to a problem, try brainstorming to come up with other possible solutions. Avoid rejecting any off-the-cuff idea-nothing block brainstorming like criticism. Laughter dispels tension. Find the humor in the situation, but don’t make fun of your partner or belittle your partner’s problem.
  9. Don’t judge or evaluate your partner’s problems. What’s trivial to you may not be trivial to other, and vice versa. Don’t assume your partner sees things the same way you do. Your beliefs and convictions may be deeply ingrained but they are not universally held.
  10. Listen with your heart as well as your mind. Don’t pretend to understand what your partner means. Ask for clarification. For example, “I want to understand how you’re feeling and thinking, but I’m not sure I do. Please tell me again, using different words,”

What is most important is the intention to communicate with heart. All of these strategies can be spin doctored to sound sarcastic or hurtful depending on eye contact, tone of voice, and body language. Make it your intention to listen with your heart. According to Nelson Mandela ” A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”.

Dr.Linda Miles , is a highly regarded psychotherapist with over 30 years experience. Her book The New Marriage,Transcending the Happily Ever After Myth was a finalist for the Forward Book of the Year Award. She has written many articles for professionals and published in national magazines such as Parents and Entrepreneur.

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