–By Lawrence Kaufman; 561-302-0568; contact@kaufmancounseling.com; www.kaufmancounseling.com

Schedule a regular time to talk together about your relationship issues!

Spontaneous interactions are fine, but planned times to talk are essential as well. (For example, you can agree to have a serious conversation together every Friday evening from 8 – 8:30.) To prepare for this talk, you may want to write yourself notes during the week as an aid in remembering what you would like to focus on.

Follow the “equal time rule.” Each partner talks for half the time. Communication often deteriorates when one person talks more than the other.

Try to limit the time you spend talking. A few sentences at a time often works best.

This is hard for most people to do. It takes time and effort to learn how to say less during your turn of talking. Talking for a shorter period of time helps your partner listen to, remember, and digest better what you have said. Making more than one point at a time can complicate communication.

Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. That is, start your statements to the other using the word “I.” In this way, you are taking personal ownership for what you are saying. Starting statements with “you” not infrequently is experienced by the other as blaming and/ or attacking. He/she may then react and/or respond defensively.

Give priority to identifying and expressing your feelings. Thoughts, opinions, and ideas are very important too, but focusing on feelings will give you better results in the medium and long term. Most people find it much easier to identify and say their thoughts than their feelings. A major goal of a deeper and more effective kind of therapy is to be able to quickly distinguish between thoughts and feelings.

Be careful not to express thoughts disguised as feelings. (An example of this is starting a sentence by saying: “I feel you are…”) Often people indirectly rather than directly express their feelings (as through the tone of their voice, or facial expressions). This can lead to a lot of problems and complications in interactions between partners.

If the conversation is not going well, temporarily put the content of what you are talking about on hold.  Focus on the process (how you are talking to one another) rather than on the content (what you are talking about). This is a time to step back, observe, and reflect upon what has just been going on between the two of you. Work together, in a cooperative partnership to try to determine what “pressed your buttons” (That is, what triggered off your negative feelings towards one another.) and jointly see if you can figure out better, more effective, and satisfying ways of talking with another.

 

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