By Kerri-Anne Brown, LMHC
If you’ve found trying to have simple communication with your partner difficult, you’ll love what I’m about to share with you. I’m giving you 3 easy ways you can communicate differently with your partner today. They’re much more effective and help to minimize conflict and tension.
1. Turn your complaints into a request
Complaining has become a very natural and common way of expressing feelings. The problem though is that a complaint is simply an expression of dissatisfaction. It only tells your partner that you’re displeased about something. How awesome would it be if you offered a potential solution by making a request instead of a complaint?
Complaint: I cannot stand when you leave the dishes in the sink overnight.
Request: I’d really like if you cleaned up the dishes before going to bed at night.
They sound very different, right? Your partner will also hear them very differently and you’re likely to get a very different response too. I’d call that a win for both of you!
2. State a positive need
This is somewhat similar to making a request but it’s definitely not the same thing. How you make the request matters. Always remember that. Often, we ask for what we don’t want instead of what we do want. Let that sink in for a moment.
Let your partner know what you want instead of hoping they’ll guess and get it right. Be specific in stating your needs but make sure you’re stating a positive need. Here’s another example.
Stating a need: I need you to stop leaving the dishes in the sink overnight.
Stating a positive need: I need you to help me to keep the kitchen clean by washing the dishes at night before bed.
3. Stay away from absolutes
Try to avoid speaking in absolute terms. Saying things like “never” and “always” are rarely helpful. It’s likely untrue that someone “always” or “never” does anything. Just because it feels that way doesn’t make it true. When your partner hears you speaking to them in these absolute terms, they are likely to feel attacked and criticized which makes them defensive. Let’s be honest, conversations don’t go very well when someone feels defensive.
Avoiding absolutes indirectly tells your partner that there are times when they are doing something right. It’s important for them to know that. Let them know!
Using absolute language: You always leave the dishes in the sink at night. I’m so tired of it!
Using non-absolute language: It feels so great when I wake up in the morning and see that you’ve taken care of the dishes. I’d love for you to do that more and clean up the kitchen each night before going to bed (stating a positive need).
Easy peasy right? I know you can do this. Communication means nothing if you’re not doing it effectively. Start with these 3 new ways to make communication smoother and get more of the results you want today. I’d love to hear your success in the comments!