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Relationship stress: how to reduce it with effective communication skills

Effective communication skills – Conflict in a relationship isn’t a problem; however, it can bring people together or tear them apart. Poor communication skill disagreements, and misunderstandings can be a source of anger and distance or a foundation to a stronger relationship and happier future. Poor communication skills have difficulties expressing ideas in a way others can’t understand them. In writing, examples include using language that requires clarification or making serious grammatical errors. In speech, a common issue is neglecting the feelings and emotions of the audience. Next time you’re dealing with conflict, keep these tips on effective communication skills in mind and you can create a more positive outcome.

Respond to Blame with Empathy
When someone comes at you with criticism, it’s easy to feel that they’re wrong and get defensive. While criticism is hard to hear, and often exaggerated or colored by the other person’s emotions, it’s important to listen for the other person’s pain and respond with empathy for their feelings. Also, look for what’s true in what they’re saying; that can be valuable information for you.

Try to See Their Point of View
In a conflict, most of us primarily want to feel heard and understood. We talk a lot about our point of view to get the other person to see things our way. If we all do this all the time, there’s little focus on the other person’s point of view, and nobody feels understood. Try to really see the other side, and then you can better explain yours. If you don’t ‘get it’, ask more questions until you do. Others will more likely be willing to listen if they feel heard.

Listen Carefully
People often think they’re listening but are really thinking about what they’re going to say next when the other person stops talking. Truly effective communication goes both ways. While it might be difficult, try really listening to what your partner is saying. Don’t interrupt. Don’t get defensive. Just hear them and reflect back what they’re saying so they know you’ve heard.

Stay Focused
Sometimes it’s tempting to bring up past seemingly related conflicts when dealing with current ones. Unfortunately, this often clouds the issue and makes finding mutual understanding and a solution to the current issue less likely and makes the whole discussion more taxing and even confusing. Try not to bring up past hurts or other topics. Stay focused on the present, your feelings, understanding one another and finding a solution.

Admit that you were wrong 
Realize that personal responsibility is strength, not a weakness. Effective communication involves admitting when you’re wrong. If you both share some responsibility in a conflict (which is usually the case), look for and admit to what’s yours. It diffuses the situation, sets a good example, and shows maturity. It also often inspires the other person to respond in kind, leading you both closer to mutual understanding and a solution.

I know exactly what you are going to say!
People may assume that “There’s no need to let someone else finish talking, you can go ahead and interrupt them as you know what they are going to say,” which is a common thought people have during an argument or even regular conversation. People will become frustrated if you are forever interrupting them, and one outcome will be that they will no longer be willing to share their views and feelings with you. This will lead to one-sided communication. Is this what you really want? As you define yourself in the relationship, you will find your strengths and areas that need improving. A good exercise in community building is to share how you perceive yourself.

Getting to know each other
Getting to know one another is not a fast process, and the more the relationship progresses, the better you know your partner. It is hard to trust a person and demands a great deal of trust. Many relationships neglect this, assuming that the “other things” are more important than their relationships. It can be easy to incorporate social activities as part of other activity, but the relationship should also hold purely social gatherings, where the point is to have fun. Share stories of where you grew up, important turning points in your life, people who you admire. Another way is to write up biographies of each other, one partner undusted another and then keeping these in a notebook for future to read and add to. Go out for a weekend retreat and spend time talking and learning about one another.

Sharing feelings
There can be undercurrents of bad feelings, which don’t get talked about. One technique that can bring this out is to do a feeling day, in which everyone in the relationship expresses how they are feeling.
For this to work some ground rules are needed:


  • Only one person speaks at a time

  • No defensive reactions from the other person.
  • Start your contribution to the relationship with “I”.

The goals of the feelings time should be written down and placed where both can see them. Some sample goals:

  • I am here to learn about my partner and myself.

  • I will listen carefully with an open heart to what you have to say about me.

  • I will speak for myself only and speak the truth as I see it.

The way feeling time work is for the relationship to simply state whatever is on their mind. For example, a person might say: “I’m feeling disappointed because you did not help me work in the garden yesterday.” This helps focus the couple on feelings and also can define some larger issues for discussion. For this kind of sharing to work it is important that the time not be interrupted by defensive answers, but that each person is allowed to speak without interruption. The person speaking has to be free to express feelings without an immediate reaction.
Active listening
Active listening is a skill, which enhances communication. In active listening you listen carefully, then paraphrase back what you heard, with the goal of supporting and drawing out the feelings of the speaker. When this is done well it validates a person’s feelings and encourages him or her to fully communicate. The goal of active listening is to help clarify the feelings and thinking behind the words. When active listening is applied it creates a supportive bond between the speaker and the listener. Because there is no threat of criticism or judgment, the speaker is encouraged to express feelings honestly. 

Remember communication skills can really reduce Relationship Stress!

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