By Jameson Holman, LMFT
Do you ever feel like your words get garbled up between coming from your head out of your mouth during a verbal altercation with someone you love dearly?
Do you wish you had a translator to be able to speak the same language to your loved ones during a communication breakdown?
Wouldn’t it be even better if there was some type of way they could just read your mind to know what you mean?
Well, while I can’t provide you with the helmet Professor Xavier uses to communicate with other mutants, I can provide you with two tips that can certainly alleviate the anxiety that comes from those dreaded “nothing” fights!
First you must:
Understand the difference between aggressive and assertive communication. Lots of good people have bad days and sometimes blurt things out of frustration as they hurl hurtful accusations like daggers at loved ones. Statements like, “You never put away the dishes!” or “You suck at being in relationships!” can up the ante of the war of words very quickly. I myself have been guilty of this many times. This highly aggressive style of communication can in some cases cause irreparable damage. Now let’s take a look at these same statements and instead replace the word “You” with an “I” statement such as “I feel frustrated when you don’t put away the dishes.” or “I feel unloved when you act as if you don’t care.” Almost instantly you will inherently recognize the difference as the language is less attack-y and more of an introspection which begs to be heard. This is assertive communication and instead of blaming it is being direct and owning one’s own feelings about the matter which is most respectable. It is critical we invest in understanding the various styles of communication as well as the differences between them and vie for assertive communication as it will be the most effective EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Second you must:
Check in often whether during or after the “passionate exchange of ideas” with each other. When we check in with each other during or after heated exchanges, we are reminding our loved ones that we are aware of them and connected to them even when all chaos is breaking loose. It may seem next to impossible during the heat of the moment to create this awareness and exhibit active listening when your loved one is throwing everything at you including the kitchen sink but with practice and most importantly patience, it is possible! Best of all, you’ll see a significant decrease in all out war and a significant increase in diplomacy during the passion exchange of ideas.
At the end of the day, you love them and it is critical you convey this in whatever way they are able to recognize it and feel it. Establishing this important baseline will always result in progress in the relationship and it’s a win for everybody! Yay!
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Therapist!